Certainly one of the pivotal events in twentieth century musical archaeology was the re-introduction of Italian Baroque master Antonio Vivaldi to the classical music canon. And while Vivaldi's famous set of concerti Il Quattro Stagione (The Four Seasons) was known to nearly everyone by the twenty-first century, the curious listener cannot be blamed for wondering where to go next, since Vivaldi's worklist is so dense and packed with the same kinds of works in immense quantities.
One of the very best places to go would be Vivaldi: Cantatas, Concertos and Magnificat. It includes a selection of three of Vivaldi's best concerti grossi performed by the expert Canadian period-instrument ensemble Tafelmusik under Jeanne Lamon partnered with a solo motet, Il turbato mare irato, the solo cantata Lungi dal vago volo, and the second version of Vivaldi's first Magnificat. In the solo vocal works is laudable English soprano Emma Kirkby negotiating the treacherous terrain of In turbato mare irato with seeming ease, even though much of the music is written in the alto range. Kirkby's singing also adds considerable character and sparkle to Lungi dal vago volo, a solo vocal piece where Vivaldi's instrumental accompaniment is so sparse it leaves the soloist exposed and with little opportunity to rest. Lungi dal vago volo is written for a singer of exceptional ability, and Kirkby is more than merely up to the challenge.
Recorded in St. Mary's Church in Toronto, the sound is very kind to the vocal works and a little less so in the instrumental concerti as the generous reverberation in the church robs the violins of their "bite." However, in slow, mysterious sections, such as the opening of the Concerto madrigalesco the effect is splendid, so overall it is a worthwhile tradeoff. This disc has marvelous liner notes by top Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot. This is the full-price Hyperion issue of Vivaldi: Cantatas, Concertos and Magnificat, which has been deleted and replaced by a reduced-price version on Helios.