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No Venetian audience in 1716 would have failed to understand that the biblical Judith stood for Venice and the Adriatic, while Holofernes, an Assyrian in the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, was the invading Turk, who had raped the island of Corfu. Hence the unusual title ‘sacred-military oratorio’ for Vivaldi’s rousing work. The hyphenate nature of the piece, and perhaps the knowledge that Judith and Holofernes were not-quite-biblical in nature, allowed Vivaldi to indulge his passion for vivid sound-colours, clashing instrumentations and rowdy, almost sexualised singing. Jordi Savall eats this kind of thing for breakfast and marshals his forces with military efficiency – except the performance is looser and more spontaneous than that sounds, and riveting from start to finish.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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