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Nisi Dominus, RV 608 [20:29]
Credo from the Crucifixus RV 592 [2:51]
Stabat Mater, RV 621 [18:29]
(counter-tenor, RV592 & 608)
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto, RV592 & 621)
Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi
rec. July 2007, Salle Surcouf, Brest, France. DDD
NAÏVE OP30453 [42:37]
This latest offering in the naïve label’s continuing Vivaldi
Edition has a lot to recommend it. While generosity isn’t among
the single Digipak’s attributes - there is less than three quarters
of an hour’s music - the beauty of Vivaldi’s vocal lines and
textures and the sophistication and honesty of its performance
by distinguished soloists and ensemble are. Though with reservations – is
it too honest?
Jaroussky’s counter-tenor is controlled, rich with pathos and
sinuous to just the right degree … if a little breathy. Listen
to his articulation of the ‘Cum dederit’ movement of the Nisi
Dominus for intimate, expressive communication at full force.
Then there’s the same work’s ‘Sicut sagittae’ for sheer virtuosity
varnished with appropriate restraint.
Lemieux has a wider repertoire and sings with depth and richness
in the short ‘Credo’ (only) from the Crucifixus, RV592,
and the lovely Stabat Mater. She brings to this familiar
work a dignity and passion that would surely have pleased Vivaldi.
His mind must have been as much on the drama of the setting
as its liturgical power. Lemieux, who never fails to take her
time and wring the appropriate pathos from every phrase and
to dot her ‘i’s and cross her ‘t’s, sustains well the Stabat
Mater’s insistence on dolorousness – languor almost. Seven
of its nine movements are adagio or slower. Singing neither despite nor at the
listener, she manages to involve us less by the particularities
of her articulation and phrasing, than by drawing attention
to the music’s detail. It is in a way redolent of Ferrier, for
Lemieux’s voice is on the high side – listen to the ‘Quis est
homo’, for example. She too … breathes well.
strings of the Ensemble Matheus, which specialises in Vivaldi,
are particularly rich. Under their conductor, Jean-Christophe
Spinosi, they achieve that bite necessary to convey Vivaldi’s
earnestness and dedication to his unstoppable creativity, to
his god and to the performers of his own day. But their playing
on this CD is never snappy or brusque to the extent that it
could have excluded either gentility or gentleness. It’s the
sound, close-up and ‘without a net’ that one hears here. The
opening of the Stabat Mater’s ‘Eja Mater’ leaves nothing
to the imagination with phrase after phrase from the violins
almost as raw as one would like.
Ensemble Matheus plays a more precise role: although they take
the lead in melodic development, they do more than merely underline
the singing. Their underplayed presence throughout the brief
but lovely Crucifixus, for example, is neither accompaniment
nor domination. It’s support for the interweaving of
the involved solo singing. It has to
be said though that in one or two places there is a slight wobble
and a hint of lack of unison. Listen to the end of the Stabat
Mater’s ‘Fac ut ardeat’, for example.
approach is as functional as it is loving. The conception and
the singing are committed and competent, But for all that, the
experience, the feeling of musical occasion, the sense of having
immersed oneself in two major and one extracted acts of devotion
leaves something to be desired. The performers’ approach is
not a perfunctory one; nor is their execution wooden. But there
is almost a uniformity to the whole that is in danger of drawing
its teeth. It’s not that the performers don’t sound well – and
well together; nor that the interpretations - of phrasing, line
and rhythm - lack competence.
lingering reservation may lie in the fact that the performers
collectively don’t seem prepared to let go, to let the music
carry them where it will. It’s as if the ensemble is unfolding
classical, rather than Baroque, music. It lacks the spontaneity
of an Alessandrini. The latter’s Stabat Mater (naïve 30367) and Nisi Dominus (naïve 30383), both with Sara Mingardo, might
prove more satisfying on repeated listenings. There is no viable
recorded alternative for the Crucifixus ‘Credo’ available,
so if the persuasive and very individual singing of Marie-Nicole
Lemieux appeals, then this won’t be a bad choice.
The CD comes with introductory essays in French and English
and abbreviated Latin texts with translations in French and
rhymed English. The recording is close and clean.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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