Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Juditha triumphans (1716)
Gloria Banditelli (mezzo soprano) – Juditha
Mária Zádori (soprano) – Abra
Judit Németh (mezzo soprano) – Holofernes
Annette Markert (mezzo soprano) – Vagaus
Katalin Gémes (mezzo soprano) – Ozias
Savaria Vocal Ensemble and Capella Savaria
Nicholas McGegan
Recorded 1990
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99961 [2 CDs 125.44]

Written in 1716 for the girls of the Ospedele della Pietà this is the only surviving Vivaldi oratorio. Whilst the vocal forces were naturally circumscribed as an all female solo group it’s possible there were tenors and basses in the chorus – possibly comprised of teachers. It’s not the Chorus, however, that is the glory of the writing of Juditha triumphans – that belongs to the orchestra, which must have been one of the most precociously talented and virtuosic bands in all Italy given Vivaldi’s confidence in giving opportunities of glamorous extravagance and felicity to solo players. The work is scored to include recorders, oboes, chalumeaux, trumpets, mandolin, theorboes, viola d’amore and splendid opportunities abound for solo strings and continuo.

The "Sacred military oratorio" is a thinly veiled allegory of the contemporary politico-military tensions that existed at the time of the composition of the work. The biblical characters depicted have their counterparts in the map of the times; the Venetian Adriatic is Juditha herself, Holofernes represents the Turkish Emperor and so on. The clash between the Venetian and Ottoman worlds has its concentrated essence simplified and reduced in this oratorio of defiance and self-assertion, greatly larded by elements of self-justification.

It’s a rather uneven work; magnificent in parts, less inspired elsewhere. One of the major weaknesses is the role of the Chorus, which is under-developed and rather short-winded. The arias are uneven and there is a definable lack of "personality" throughout the work as well as an unconvincing psychology, which is mirrored and exacerbated by a lack of differentiation and characterisation. Few arias reach the dazzling heights of Veni, veni me Sequere fida but given the many opportunities elsewhere for colour and orchestral drama one can always find moments of ear titillating delight.

Dating from 1990 this McGegan led performance was in the vanguard of the re-establishment of the work. Now of course we have the Opus 111 three CD set (this McGegan is on 2 CDs) with Magdelena Kožena in the title role, a well-received traversal led by Alessandro de Marchi. The singers for McGegan are without exception vibrantly voiced and strongly engaged. Gloria Banditelli has an excellent voice with effortless production though once or twice she succumbs to a degree of by rote singing. As Holofernes, Judit Németh is a worthy adversary, intelligent and expressive and always theatrically involving. Mária Zádori as Abra is not always dead centre of the note but she is otherwise a technically impressive performer and Annette Markert makes a good showing as Holofernes’ servant Vagaus. There are numerous points of delicacy and interest from Juditha’s aria Transit aetas – so colourful and sensuous – and her florid coloratura in Vivat in pacem to Abra’s evanescent and lighthearted Non its reducem. The fine orchestra has its chance in Si fulgida per te where its accompaniment to Abra’s aria is simply delicious, but there are times when it seems McGegan indulges them too pleasurably at the expense of internal dramatic tension.

The booklet sets the scene and there is the full Latin text but with no translations. Brilliant Classics are extremely inexpensive and this is a generally recommendable set, though it is maybe more "work in progress" than finished article.

Jonathan Woolf

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