- Laudate Pueri Dominum (Psalm 112), for voice, strings & continuo in C minor, RV 600
- Stabat Mater, hymn for voice, strings & continuo in F minor, RV 621
- Canta in Prato, ride in monte (I), solo motet for voice, strings & continuo in A major, RV 623
- Clarae stellae, scintillate, solo motet for voice, strings & continuo in F major, RV 625
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The four Vivaldi sacred works included on this album are attractive pieces with strong links to various aspects of the composer's operatic language. The third work, "Canta in prato, ride in monte, RV 623" (Sing in the meadow, laugh on the hill), is especially interesting with its religious pastoral text, but all four pieces, for solo voice and orchestra (the first and third for soprano voice and the second and fourth for a high contralto), have plenty of vocal fire and vivid contrasts of mood. The Canadian singers featured, Tracy Smith Bessette (soprano) and Marion Newman (designated a mezzo-soprano in the booklet and a contralto on the back cover) come from backgrounds in Romantic and contemporary opera and certainly have the equipment to handle Vivaldi's writing. Each generates considerable momentum in athletic passages. But the performances as a whole don't quite jell. The contrast between Smith Bessette's vibrato-dripping, hard-cornering voice and the smooth, circumspect sounds of the Arcadia Ensemble puts one in mind of pop recordings in which singer and backing group aren't in the same room (or even necessarily the same city or country) as they turn in their performances. Newman comes closer to matching her voice to her surroundings, but her attempts to create a repertoire of quiet sounds in her lower register don't manage pleasing results; her voice has a curiously mechanical quality in the first few notes above middle C, and it tends to get lost in the instrumental sound. The performances never go off the rails, and the album may be worth having for the unusual "Canta in prato, ride in monte," but it demonstrates how Vivaldi's music, seemingly so straightforward, presents performance challenges that exceed those associated with almost any other composer.