Various Artists

Sacred Music

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This collection of sacred music from different eras is merely a repackaging of some aging items from the catalog of the French label Naïve, which acquired the Opus 111 label some years ago; one of the discs in the set bears that imprint. These aren't necessarily the absolute top-of-the-line recordings from Naïve, but they're enough to provide a decent introduction to what this label has been doing. The work starts with fashion-forward graphic design, included in full in these releases. It proceeds to sensuous singing married to vigorous historical-instrument performances from French and on occasion Italian ensembles. The word "vigorous" is not enough to describe one of the performances here, the rendering of Vivaldi's Gloria for chorus and orchestra in D major, RV 589, the famous "Vivaldi's Gloria." Sample the opening track to get an idea of what you're in for. The leader of the Bach cantata disc is another star of the current historical-instrument scene: conductor, gambist, and cellist Christophe Coin. The Mozart C minor mass disc will not close the book on that monumental torso (in Mozart the French sound can be a bit mannered), but will introduce the listener to the effortlessly soaring and rather addictive voice of soprano Sandrine Piau, and to the ultra-serene sound of the chorus Accentus. The disc of chants by Hildegard of Bingen and another female medieval composer of chant, Herrad von Landberg, is a bit outside Naïve's usual range of specialization, but has the same combination of technical precision and surface beauty as the other recordings. The bottom line is that Naïve has done more than any other label to present historical-instrument performances as passionate music-making worthy of an audience's attention entirely on its own musical merits. If you've missed the activities so far, here's a low-cost crash course.

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