My first experience of singing with a full choir came when I attended a summer music school over 30 years ago.
I would have been about 15, I think. I was at the music school for a week’s worth of violin playing immersion – solo, chamber and orchestral work. This was all great fun, as was the socialising with friends and new acquaintances.
But the most powerful memory I have from that week was the supposedly peripheral time we spent singing Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Like some famous people these days, this work needs only a one word title – it is so well known. Vivaldi apparently wrote other settings of the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo – an integral part of the Ordinary of the Mass. But ‘my’ one, the unglamorously referenced RV589, is the main man.
Why do I like it so much? Right from the first note there is a sense of wonderment, brilliance and, yes, Glory. The brisk orchestral introduction tells you that you are in for a fantastic ride – hold on to your seats! This may be sacred music, but it can still give you goosebumps and take your breath away.
Every part of the work is perfection – the choral sections are rich and complex; the soloists’ parts are lyrical and lilting. No wonder it became ingrained in my memory when I first spent time with it all those years ago.
I have struggled to find on YouTube a rendition of this work for you which completely satisfies me. The right tempo, the right quality, a complete recording – there does not seem to be anything which fits my wish-list. So here are a few links for you, the combination of which hopefully will provide an interesting pick-and-mix.
The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge can always be relied on to deliver a crisp, uplifting performance. Here is their Gloria, albeit only a small part of it. If I am being really picky, this one is a tad too slow for me.
This version – sung by the wonderful Monteverdi Choir, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner is full-length, the right tempo and beautifully sung. But on my computer, there were advert interruptions a couple of times, which of course were rather irritating and spoiled the flow of the music somewhat. If you can get past this though, it is an excellent listen. Check out in particular the Laudamus Te at 7:06 mins – sublime.
Here is a version performed by an all-female group. I have included this because it accompanies this fascinating documentary about the women for whom Vivaldi composed over some 56 years. In terms of this recording of the Gloria, it feels a tad stilted to me, emphasised by the placement of the singers behind screens. There is a huge contrast between the stillness of the singers and the vibrant and energetic orchestral players. I’m sure this format was all meticulously researched and presents an authentic picture of how the women of the Pieta performed. But I don’t have to like it. Nevertheless, their story is very interesting.
There is nothing like this kind of music to put a spring in one’s step – I hope you like it too. I just know I am going to be humming the opening chorus for the rest of the day! 🙂