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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Vespers of Sorrow

Stabat Mater, RV621
Sonata al Santo Sepolcro, RV130
Nisi Dominus, RV608
Magnificat, RV611
Salve Regina (Plainchant)
La Tempesta/Jakub Burzynski (counter-tenor)
Rec.: 11, 14 Jan 2004, Evangelical Reformed Church, Warsaw, Poland. DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1426 [54:35]


This new Vivaldi release from the enterprising BIS label combines scores which could have been used for an imagined Vespers on the Catholic feast commemorating the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows. The imagined location is the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, the charitable institution for orphaned young women with which Antonio Vivaldi was associated for almost the whole of his active life. The imaginary performance could have taken place on 15 September 1727 owing to a decree by Pope Benedict XIII early in 1727. This extended the celebration of the feast of the Seven Sorrows to the entire Latin Church.

Thankfully Vivaldi’s vocal music, both sacred and secular, is now being taken extremely seriously with several fine recordings available. This programme of Vespers of Sorrow has been admirably selected and I marvel again at Vivaldi’s genius for consistently delivering expression, charm and depth. The first work is the Magnificat, RV611 which Vivaldi wrote for mixed vocal ensemble. However his choir at the Ospedale consisted of women only and it is likely that he transposed the tenor and bass parts up an octave into the version presented here. The Ospedale did not always have a full-sized orchestra available and for this performance a one-to-a-part option has been used for both the instrumental and vocal ensembles. In accordance with the tradition at the time a purely instrumental work, the Sonata al Santo Sepolcro, RV130 for strings and basso continuo, has been placed between the Stabat Mater, RV621 and the Nisi Dominus, RV608.

An inspired move is the added percussion utilised at three points. The music calls for particularly strong expression and in several places suitable embellishments have been used. The enlarged basso continuo section which consists of theorbo, harpsichord and chamber organ adds significant variety and extra colour. The Amen from the Stabat Mater has been recorded twice, once at a slow pace and the other at a faster tempo; to considerable effect. Furthermore, I really enjoyed the traditional placing of the Salve Regina (Plainchant) at the conclusion of the programme.

This remarkable, atmospheric and highly-moving programme is sung and directed by the supremely talented young Polish counter-tenor Jakub Burzynski, who with this disc makes his début on BIS. In fact Burzynski sings all the solo parts that Vivaldi wrote for both contralto and soprano voice and gives a special and suitably reverent performance rich in passion and high in intensity.

I am unfamiliar with the Polish-based instrumental and vocal ensemble ‘La Tempesta’ who perform with period instruments. These early music specialists are exceedingly secure, strikingly expressive and display excellent tone and texture throughout. Together with counter-tenor Jakub Burzynski the ensemble offer a particularly spectacular interpretation of the Cum dederit dilectis suis from the Nisi Dominus, RV608. Few listeners could fail to be moved by this remarkable movement - the highlight of this wonderful BIS release.

These are memorable, moving and inspired scores that are given outstanding performances. They are wholly compelling, captivating and infused with a certain liturgical mystery and awe. The selection of the Evangelical-Reformed Church, Warsaw as the recording venue is an inspired choice. The BIS sound engineers have provided superb sonics that are exceptionally clear, detailed and well-balanced. The annotation, complete with full English texts, is excellent too.

A superb release, not to be missed! This will be my Record of the Year!

Michael Cookson

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