Gerard Hoffnung CDs
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
O qui coeli terraeque serenitas (RV 631) [11:37]
Salve Regina (RV 617)* (09:08]
Laudate pueri Dominum (RV 601)** [22:59]
Vos aurae per montes (RV 634) [13:04]
(soprano), Gottfried von der Goltz (violin) (*), Claire
Guimond (transverse flute) (**), Peter Frankenberg,
Frank de Bruine (oboe) (**)
Teatro Lirico/Stephen Stubbs
rec. April, September 1998, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Netherlands.
The part of Vivaldi's oeuvre which has been rediscovered relatively
recently is his sacred music. About thirty of the extant
sacred compositions are for solo voice. Most of them are
motets, a term used in Vivaldi's time for a composition on
a sacred, but non-liturgical text in Latin. Motets were performed
at the quiet moments during Mass or Vespers, and ecclesiastical
authorities frequently intervened if the practice of including
them in the service got out of hand.
There is evidence that Vivaldi wrote many more than those which have
come down to us. In 1715, two years after he had taken over
the post of maestro di coro at the Ospedale della
Pietà, he had already written more than thirty motets. And
in 1739 the Conservatorio della Pietà acquired another eleven
by Vivaldi. He was clearly inspired by the girls and women
of the Ospedale della Pietà, some of whom were able to sing
with considerable virtuosity. In the 1730 a contralto from
the Ospedale was even called the best singer in Italy.
But not all works of this kind were written for the Ospedale.
The first item, the motet 'O qui coeli terraeque', was composed
during the carnival seasons in 1723 or 1724 in Rome, where
some of Vivaldi's operas were performed. This work is characteristic
of the genre. Stylistically the motets are modelled after
the secular chamber cantata, and mostly consist of two arias
embracing a recitative and close with an 'Alleluia'. The
texts are often of a mediocre nature. In 1769 the French
writer Pierre-Jean Grosley (in his 'Observations sur l'Italie
et sur les Italiens') characterised them as "a sorry
collection of rhymed Latin words, in which barbarisms and
solecisms are more common than good sense and reason".
The virtuosity of the solo line is generally more important
than the text.
Vivaldi received commissions from all over Europe. Apart
from motets Vivaldi also composed antiphons, hymns and psalms
into the service of Vespers. One of them is 'Laudate pueri
Dominum' (Psalm 112/113), written for the court in Dresden,
which was very keen on Vivaldi's music and which had imported
some Italian singers in the 1720s to perform at the opera.
This piece was obviously written for a very virtuosic singer
as it requires a voice with a range of two octaves going
up to d'''. This range is fully exploited in the verse 'Excelsus
super omnes gentes' which includes the words "The Lord
is high above all nations and His glory above the heavens" and
closes with "and looks down on the low things in heaven
and on earth". In these last lines the voice goes up
and down on "in coelo" (in heavens) and "in
terra" (on earth). The verse 'A solis ortu' begins with
a rising scale on the text "From the rising of the sun" and
is followed by a descending scale on the words "until
the going down of the same". These are followed by the
closing line "the name of the Lord is worthy of praise",
which contrasts with the first two lines. This contrast is
beautifully realised in this performance. Wonderfully expressive
is the Gloria Patri, where the soprano is accompanied by
a transverse flute. In the next verse, "Sicut erat in
principio", two oboes are playing ' colla parte' with
the violins, which I think - on the basis of other recordings
- is not required in the score, and seems a little strange
as oboes play no role in the rest of the piece.
The Salve Regina is one of three settings of this text by Vivaldi.
This one is the most intimate, and Suzie LeBlanc sings it
nicely, although the Seufzer (sighing figures) in
the second verse on words like "suspiramus", "gentes" and "flentes" are
not fully exploited. The last verse, 'Et Jesum', is a bit
slow considering the tempo indication 'andante'. The tempi
are also somewhat doubtful in the last item on the programme,
'Vos aurae per montes', also a relatively late work, written
for the patronal festival of the basilica of San Antonio
in Padua, which took place on 13 July. There is too little
difference in tempo between the first and the second aria,
despite the tempo indications, 'allegro' and 'andante molto'
respectively. In the first aria both LeBlanc and the ensemble
deal admirably with the depiction of the blowing winds and
the murmuring of the water.
Let me sum up. Suzie LeBlanc sings well and has a very pleasant and
agile voice - she reminds me of Emma Kirkby, but her voice
is warmer and mellower - and the Teatro Lirico plays very
well, but this interpretation is lacking in dramatic contrast.
These vocal works have sacred texts, but in character they
are hardly less theatrical than Vivaldi's secular cantatas
and operas. That is underexposed here.
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