Marc Minkowski

To Saint Cecilia, Works by Purcell, Handel and Haydn

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This two-disc set of Baroque and Classical choral music has everything going for it: brilliant programming, splendid packaging, and superlative performances. The program consists of three first-class works dedicated to the patron saint of music, Henry Purcell's Hail, Bright Cecilia, Handel's A Song for St. Cecilia, and Haydn's St. Cecilia Mass. The packaging consists of glorious reproductions of paintings of the saint by a variety of old masters, plus extensive notes and complete texts. Best of all are the performances; led by Marc Minkowski, Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble deliver accounts that rival and often surpass previous recorded efforts. Though the orchestra is nearly chamber-sized, Minkowski elicits full-bodied playing that makes a joyful and very polished noise unto the Lord, or, in this case, St. Cecilia. Minkowski's small chorus turns in performances of refined elegance and tremendous power, and his vocal soloists are just as fine, with Lucy Crowe's soaring soprano being a stand-out. Recorded in startlingly immediate sound, this set is a perfect example of how classical music should be presented on disc.

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