Sacred Classics is a two-disc compilation of favorite religious arias and choruses selected from EMI's extensive catalog of fine performances. Covering a wide range of Baroque, Classical, and Romantic works, this collection provides representative excerpts from major oratorios, cantatas, and masses, though the arrangement of pieces is somewhat arbitrary. The casual listener may be puzzled by this set's inconsistency of mood. The triumph of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus and Vivaldi's In excelsis Deo is contrasted with the serenity of Fauré's Pie Jesu and Bach's Jesu bleibet meine Freude, and such alternation of tone may be acceptable. However, the stark difference between the subdued Bach/Gounod Ave Maria and the boldness of Handel's Zadok the Priest is rather jarring, and similar mismatches occur elsewhere to startle the unsuspecting. Other listeners may take exception to the program, which relies too heavily on Bach and excludes other great composers of sacred music. Surely, room could have been provided for Monteverdi, Beethoven, Bruckner, and Rachmaninov. Even so, this collection is best viewed as an introductory sampler and is recommended for novices. The performances date from 1957 to 1984, and the sound quality of these ADD tracks is a little variable but not enough to pose a difficulty on most sound systems.
Sacred Classics Review
by Blair Sanderson