Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Marriner or Hickox?
on 3 March 2015
These two works make an obvious and very desirable coupling, being celebratory, liturgical works of the same era by two of the greatest Baroque composers but obviously very different in character: the one, all Venetian brilliance, the other high Germanic seriousness - yet both are intensely soulful and beautiful, with deeply contemplative passages. By chance, both the "period" recording by Hickox and the modern-traditional recording from Marriner were recorded a quarter century ago and both retain their merited place on my shelves, different though they are.
Contrary to a previous reviewer, the Hickox recording is not especially slow at all in comparison with the norm, although there is one instance, the alto solo in the Vivaldi, "Domine Deus, Agnus Dei", where Michael Chance takes half as long again as his female counterpart for Mariner, drawing out the melancholy of the piece. All soloists are uniformly good for both conductors, although there is a special crystalline radiance in Emma Kirby's soprano compared with the smokier, more sensuous, operatic sound of Barbara Hendricks for Marriner. I am also pleased to report that Ann Murray, a singer whose tone sometimes turned acid in the higher reaches, sounds in finest form, singing with great evenness and expression at brisker speeds than Chance. Finnish bass Jorma Hynninnen is sonorous but rather lugubrious in his solo aria in the Bach and thus I prefer Stephen Varcoe for Hickox there, even though - or perhaps because, in this case - his voice is so light. Both tenors are admirable.
The sound for Marriner is much broader and a little mushier in acoustic whereas Chandos provides a clearer, cleaner, closer perspective but both offer a modern, digital listening experience.
The bonuses might be a deciding factor for some collectors; Chandos offers a preliminary taster in the form of the sparkling "Ostro picta, armata spina" sweetly sung by Kirby, whereas CfP (Warner) provides several more substantial extras in the form of Bach bon-bons: two famous choral items from the cantatas, the equally popular soprano solo from Cantata 208 elegantly sung by Hendricks and, best of all, two brief but lovely arias from Dame Janet Baker, exquisitely sung in her inimitable oboe tones.
Personally I want both discs in my collection but if you want only one version of these pairings, I cannot recommend one over the other, except to suggest that you should go with your taste, depending on whether you want a more traditional or a supposedly "historically aware" approach.