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Antonio Vivaldi: Music for the Chapel of the Pietà
Vocal Music and Sacred Concerti

 

By John Sidgwick

LONDON, 25 March 2005—There is so much to recommend about this new issue by La Serenissima that I hardly know where to start. Suffice to say that it is a must for any lover of the music of Vivaldi. More than that even: it is a must for any lover of music.

 Like all productions by Adrian Chandler, the performances are backed up by prodigious in-depth scholarship. The sleeve notes (in English, German and French) provide invaluable information on the sources. Furthermore, the technical notes by Chandler himself and by the excellent harpsichordist and organist, Robert Howarth, are remarkably rewarding and deserve careful study. Finally, there is complete information on the instruments used by the performers, each one of whom is named. In short, one of the best accompanying documents I have come across. None of the so-called majors is producing anything like it today.

The programme consists of four concerti for various combinations of instruments and two sacred works for soprano and strings. I shall deal with one of each of these.

 Vivaldi and virtuosity are intimately connected in the public perception of "The Red Priest". In the Concerto fatto per la Solennità della S. Lingua di S. Antonio in Padova, 1712 for violin, strings and continuo in D, RV 212, Chandler takes us into Everest-like realms of prodigious performance. Yet at no time, despite the fearful technical demands of the music, does he ever stray from a beautiful warm tone and his intonation is impeccable throughout. In his sleeve note, after describing the rescue of the piece from badly damaged scores, he makes the following point: "It is also something of a miracle that the cadenzas have survived complete, the second being of great interest as it takes the violinist above the end of the fingerboard, thus proving the oft ridiculed statement of Uffenbach's that 'Vivaldi brought his fingers within a hair's breadth of the bridge, scarcely leaving room for the bow'".

 In Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 112) for soprano, strings and continuo, RV 600, Mhairi Lawson demonstrates yet again what a marvelous singer she is. In my view, any singer of any tessitura should listen to her. In recent years, singers have tried to get louder and louder and nearly all of them wobble so much that they are frankly uncomfortable to listen to. Lawson has a gentle, warm vibrato, yet even in pianissimo, she can be clearly heard at the back of the largest concert hall. For the simple truth is that she has worked to acquire the values of another age. Just as the great actors knew how to make themselves heard without shouting, the great singers were able to project their voices without forcing the tone. Laudate pueri Dominum consists of ten movements of varying moods, illustrating the sentiments of the various verses of the psalm. Lawson meets the demands of the music superbly at every moment, contemplative when necessary, yet explosive and accurate almost beyond belief in her coloratura. Moreover, she constantly lends the music a special impetus all of her own, carrying it along in such a way that it never flags for an instant.

 I can only repeat what I said at the beginning of this article. This disk is a must for any lover of music.

Antonio Vivaldi: Music for the Chapel of the Pietà
Vocal Music & Sacred Concerti

La Serenissima
Adrian Chandler,  director/violin
Mhairi Lawson,  soprano
Sarah McMahon, cello solo
Robert Howarth, harpsichord/organ
Recorded at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Salehurst, East Sussex, England, 22–24 Nov 2004

Avie Records: AV 2063

 

John Sidgwick writes about classical music in Britain and France for Culturekiosque.com.

 



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