The third part of the Gloria, Laudamus te, is a lovely and moderately paced
aria for soprano. It has an instrumental beginning which shows perfectly
just how good a baroque violin can sound; the beauty and pungency of the
violin is best heard in its "stretching" the envelope. But ultimately,
it's the vocalism which has center stage, and the soprano needs to supply
clear diction, expressiveness, and a heavenly voice.
Three of the versions are below the rest; Herreweghe's instrumental
contributions don't stretch sufficiently, Bruggen's soprano does not have
an appealing tone, and Gardiner, the fastest of all, sounds like he's
in a hurry. The remaining versions all do well with the singing and
instrumental parts; two are outstanding. Julianne Baird for Rifkin and
Isabelle Poulenard for Leonhardt soar up high with full expressivity and
delightful voices; this easily tips the scales in their favor.
The fourth part of the Gloria, Gratias agimus tibi, is a climax building
choral piece. It might not be quite as varied and majestic as the Et in
terra pax, but it is very fine choral music which I appreciate more with
time. With this music, it's Pearlman's time to shine; he provides incisive
yet beautifully blended singing, and a great flow to the piece which allows
for the full measure of the build-up toward the climaxes. At the other
end, the Leonhardt and Rifkin versions are a little diffuse, the one-voice
per part approach not working well as the voices do not blend sufficiently.
The remaining versions are fine.
The fifth part of the Gloria, Domine Deus, is a duet for soprano and
tenor. It opens with a lovely instrumental section having strong
dance-like characteristics highlighted by the wind and violin playing.
For a performance to be excellent, the dance qualities must be strong, the
wind/violin playing incisive, and the vocalism highly attractive and well
blended. A relatively fast tempo can work quite well and even enhance the
dance-like qualities. But, a slow tempo risks destroying the exuberance
of the dance.
Pearlman's had no weaknesses but also no strengths except for the soprano
Nicole Heaston. There were important times in the Bruggen when it seemed
that the violins were in the next County. The flautist in Parrott's
version didn't sound totally in sync with the orchestra. The other six
versions were all very good without reaching the pinnacle. Herreweghe
is the slowest, but he makes it work by providing a "sly" quality to the
dance, and those violins sound superb; Barbara Schlick does much better
than in recent years, and Howard Crook is outstanding. Rifkin's has
fantastic wind playing and a very good soprano in Judith Nelson. Hickox
is very good all around; Nancy Argenta displays a better tone quality than
in recent years. Gardiner has perfect pacing. King also has great pacing,
and the boy sopraono, Matthias Ritter, does quite well. Leonhardt has the
best soprano in Isabelle Poulenard although I felt her singing got a little
sleepy a couple of times. Leonhardt must have been keeping her up too late
I have a minor irritation I'd like to share. In 6 of the versions,
there are no photographs of the vocal soloists. Even worse, there's no
photograph of Isabelle Poulenard. I've conjured up an exquisite looking
woman and want to know if I'm right. Like I said, it's just a minor
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