About this Recording
8.550767 - VIVALDI: Gloria, RV 589 / Beatus Vir, RV 597

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)

Gloria in D, RV 589
Beatus vir in C, RV 597

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice the son of a professional violinist. Although Vivaldi underwent training for the priesthood, it was as a musician that he evidently excelled: he began playing the violin at an early age and it is known that he deputized on occasion for his father who held a post as violinist at St. Mark's. Despite his ordination to the priesthood in 1703, Vivaldi decided to pursue a musical career; his first appointment was that of maestro di violino at the Ospedale della Pietà where he maintained a teaching post on and off for much of his early life. It was here that the young composer produced a great deal of his choral music, although the works featured here were probably not among thern since they are much more elaborate than anything the singers at the Pietà could have coped with.

One of the most striking features of Vivaldi's style is his ability to fashion melodies out of even a cadential fragment, and this facility is nowhere better illustrated than in the opening movement of the Gloria. The first figure, with its distinctive octave leaps, is at once rhythmically vital and harmonically stable and lends itself easily to sequential treatment. Typically for a violinist perhaps, the composer often displays a tendency to leave intricacy to the instruments and to employ the chorus homophonically, as here. The second choral movement, Et in terra pax, explores this idea further, while extending the harmonic range with a profusion of Neapolitan sixths and some extraordinary modulations. Even more unorthodox is Laudamus te in that the opening ritornello is a slightly uncomfortable seventeen bars long; Vivaldi here allows himself some florid vocal lines for the two soprano soloists and uses chains of suspensions - a favourite device. The short homophonic setting of the words Gratias agimus tibi gives way to a fugue of some dexterity, although it must be said that Vivaldi is at his best when dealing with simpler forms: the following soprano aria with obbligato oboe is a case in point. Here a long melody is gracefully unfolded in the metre of a Siciliano, while the continuo line recalls the octave leaps of the first movement. Sequence is again much in evidence in Domine Fili unigenite, the composer disregarding convention by resolving suspensions in the violin parts by downward leaps of a 7th. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei uses contrasting forces: the alto soloist, accompanied by continuo, has descending scalic lines which are punctuated by chordal interjections from the choir and orchestra. The penitential section continues with both groups singing separate triple-time movements, and the work concludes with a recapitulation of the opening for Quoniam tu solus Sanctus and a final fugal movement.

Beatus vir is even more structurally cohesive than the Gloria: not only does the opening music reappear for the Gloria Patri, but the phrase 'Beatus vir' becomes a refrain, being interpolated at strategic points in the work, and giving unity to the whole. This phrase is characteristically simple, its static vocal lines accompanied by a descending scale. Much of the interest that this piece holds for the listener relies on the use of double orchestra and choir, a throwback perhaps to the cori spezzati style of earlier Venetian composers, yet at the end of the first movement the two orchestras alternate parallel major and minor tonalities with an almost Schubertian flair and at one point even play two different triads simultaneously: thus the composer manages to be both retrospective and visionary at the same time. After duets for the choral basses and solo sopranos, the choral movement Exortum est in tenebris displays more complex vocal writing than one would expect, with varied note values creating a layered texture. Scalic lines reappear for the ensuing soprano solo, while the choral trio In memoria aeterna combines sequential and fugal elements. In Paratum cor eius Vivaldi uses unison choral writing to illustrate the text, much as Bach was wont to do, while Peccator videbit alternates fast and slow sections in the Handelian manner to great dramatic effect.

Schola Cantorum
Schola Cantorum is Oxford University's longest-running chamber choir. It was founded in 1960 by the Hungarian dissident Laszló Heltay, and over the last three decades many of the choir' s former members have become involved in professional music at the highest levels. Former singers include Emma Kirkby and Jane Glover, while Andrew Parrott, Nicholas Cleobury, and Ivor Bolton are among the choir's former conductors. Schola Cantorum's patrons are Sir Michael Tippett and Lord Menuhin, and for specific projects the choir has worked under Leonard Bernstein, Gunstav Leonhardt, Sir Colin Davis, and Sir Neville Marriner as well as Britten, Tippett, and Stravinsky in performances of their own music, since 1990 Schola Cantorum has been conducted by Jeremy Summerly under whom the choir has released many recordings and has toured extensively, both in Britain and abroad.

Jeremy Summerly
Jeremy Summerly studied Music at New College, Oxford from where he graduated with First Class Honours in 1982. For the next seven years he worked for BBC Radio and it was during this time that he founded the Oxford Camerata and undertook postgraduate research at King's College, London. In 1989 he became a lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music and in the following year he was appointed conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford. In 1991 he signed a long-term contract with Naxos to record a variety of music with Schola Cantorum of Oxford and the Oxford Camerata.

Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of England's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of the concert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both in concert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges from the baroque era to music of our time, and they have gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning.

Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.

Nicholas Ward
Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester, the son of parents who met when they became members of the Hallé Orchestra. At the age of twelve he formed his own string quartet which remained together for five years until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Having studied with Yossi Zivoni in Manchester and André Gertler in Brussels, he moved in 1977 to London where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1984 he became co-leader of the City of London Sinfonia and leader of the Northern Chamber Orchestra of which he was subsequently appointed Musical Director.

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