English soprano Grace Davidson is a member of The Sixteen who has also appeared on film soundtrack recordings. Here she makes her solo orchestral debut with a logical program bound together by the fact that all the music is extremely virtuosic, and on top of that little-known. Particularly interesting is the Gloria, HWV deest, of Handel; the only reason this counterpart to Vivaldi's famed Gloria, RV 589, is not better known is that it was rediscovered only in 2001. Start your sampling with its opening movement to hear both the recording's strengths and its more questionable aspects. In the former column is the engineering, getting a nice, bright clarity from the All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London. And likewise the music, so redolent of the competitive vocal atmosphere in which both Handel and Vivaldi worked. The venerable Academy of Ancient Music under Joseph Crouch is a good fit for Davidson here with its light, restrained affect. And it is easy to imagine Davidson in the small chapels for which several of these works were probably composed. Which brings you to the issue you'll have to evaluate for yourself: Davidson is a chamber-sized soprano, and it's easy to imagine these works sung with more power. In the Handel Gloria, note how she takes the runs precisely, blooming into vibrato only on longer notes. It's a chamber cantata sound in music that's a bit operatic, although sacred, and it may or may not ring your bell. In either case, the album is worth your time and money for bringing these neglected vocal works out of the shadows.
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