For many years after his death, Vivaldis vast output of sacred music lay silent and forgotten until Alberto Gentili tracked down an incredible 27 volumes of manuscripts in the 1920s. These volumes contained motets, movements of Masses, the oratorio Juditha triumphans, psalm settings and Marian antiphons. These works ranged from short single-movement works to larger-scale compositions with twelve or more sections. One of the most famous works unearthed by Gentili was the Gloria. Today, this work is as popular as The Four Seasons and is among Vivaldis best-known music. The Gloria, like much of the sacred music by Vivaldi, is easily accessible, like his famous concertos. The music has a very human spirituality nothing mystic, just a desire to explain the text in a clear pictorial way. Much of Vivaldis sacred music was written for the Ospedale della Pietà, a state-funded foundlings home for girls, where he became music director after his ordination in 1703. His writing focused almost entirely on instrumental music, especially concertos, when the choirmaster Francesco Gasparini went on leave and failed to return. Vivaldi was asked to help out, and the results can be heard on these seven CDs. This set is a must-have for those who love Vivaldis music and wish to explore beyond the famous concertos.
This is a radiant, joyful piece of virtuoso writing for the voice. With its many subtle contrasts and vivid word-painting, it seems to me to sit comfortably atop the Vivaldi solo sacred music tree along with the Stabat Mater and Nisi Dominus. There are no weak links in this beautiful, often exhilarating piece and listeners will not, by and large, be disappointed by the performance. Dawson and Zádori are at an advantage, perhaps, in singing the music at a lower Baroque pitch, but even so Marshall hits her high notes and there is no shortage of them dependably and with panache. --Gramophone, April 1992