A Worthy Hymn
Commissioned for Pope John Paul II, who came to Paris in August 1997 to celebrate an open-air Mass as part of the Worldwide Days of Youth, this is a great collection of sacred music from Baroque to the modern era. The progression is roughly chronological, but the flow of moods and styles works great. The chorus of Santa Cecilia National Academy is totally on, the orchestra, conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, enthusiastically joins in, and the two soloists are a strange pair, but they both put in a great performance.
The opening choral movement from Vivaldi's Gloria is fast, not as furiously fast as Rinaldo Alessandrini's take, but really fast and energetic. Then Cecilia Bartoli comes in and serves up a killer Domine Deus from the same Gloria- glorious singing and great oboe obligato to boot. Then you get nicely done Jesus bleibet meine Freude by Bach and some Mozart: moving Ave Verum, and ecstatic Alleluia from Exsultate, jubilate, sung by supercharged Cecilia. Another Ave Verum and Qui seminant by List and a well done Sanctus from Verdi's Requiem, plus Rossini and Vitali round up Phase One of this album, and set the stage for piece de résistance: Bizet's Agnus Dei, sung by Andrea Bocelli.
I may have mixed feeling about Bocelli's attempts to sing classical music, but he is very good in this piece, closely miked, straight up and quite moving. And, followed by Panis Angelicus, sung by Divine Cecilia- beautiful singing, bordering on ravishing. Before I heard this album I had no idea that she could sing a simple piece, without any aspirated heeheehoohoo coloratura, and sound so great.
Serene In Paradisum from Faure's Requiem, a piece by Messiaen and a Rite Of Peace prayer, read by Pope John Paul II, end the album.
The sound is not so great, and it is a live recording, so there are a few rough spots, but it's a very surprising delight, 100% sacred- as certified by JPII- and well worth getting. And there is a happy sequel, too, Hymn for the World II where Bryn Terfel joins the ranks of singers.