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)
Dixit Dominus, RV 595; Nulla in mundo pax sincera, RV 630; Jubilate, o amoeni chori, RV 639; Gloria, RV 588
Jane Archibald (soprano)
Michele de Boer (soprano)
Anita Krause (mezzo-soprano)
Peter Mahon (counter-tenor)
Nils Brown (tenor)
Giles Tomkins (bass)
Aradia Ensemble and Chorus/Kevin Mallon
Rec. Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada, 15-20 September 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557445 [68.18]



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There are already at least two series of Vivaldi’s sacred music on-going. Robert King and his King’s Consort are recording for Hyperion and Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano for Opus 111. The Opus 111 set covers more than just sacred music; it is a brave attempt to encompass all of Vivaldi’s music that is held in manuscript in the National University Library in Turin.

Now, the Canadian-based Aradia Ensemble have recorded a disc of Vivaldi’s sacred music for Naxos. This is billed as volume 1 of a collection of sacred music. Rather enterprisingly, as the centre-piece of this disc the group features the lesser known of Vivaldi’s settings of the Gloria. This is combined with the second of his Dixit Dominus settings and the solo motet, ‘Nulla in mundo pax sincera’. All the pieces on this disc date from the period after 1713, when Vivaldi started writing sacred music for the Pieta because of the departure of the maestro di coro, Gasparini. This, of course, leads to the eternally fascinating question of whether any of these pieces were performed at the Pieta. Andrew Parrott has recorded the more well known Gloria with just female chorus (transposing the men’s parts up an octave), but here Kevin Mallon wisely sticks to a more traditional allocation of parts.

The Dixit Dominus, K595 is scored for two oboes, trumpet, strings and continuo with five soloists (two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass) and five-part chorus. The recording opens in fine fashion with a crisp introduction from the Aradia Ensemble, full of rhythmic bounce and fine, decisive singing from their chorus. The forces used are relatively small, choir of fifteen and just twelve strings so their style is light, crisp and incisive. The first soprano aria is delightfully sung by the soprano soloist (either Jane Archibald or Michele de Boer - the booklet is vague on this issue) and the two of them combine beautifully for their duet. Both soloists have a pleasant vibrato which adds warmth to their voices, but which can lead to a certain fuzziness when the vocal line becomes more elaborate, as in the second soprano solo. The solo trumpet which leads into the aria, ‘Judicabit in nationibus’ leads us to expect great things but mezzo-soprano Anita Krause has a voice whose timbre and use of vibrato does not lend itself well to music of this period. She acquits herself creditably, but I would have liked more edge and far more sense of line; something that the counter-tenor, tenor and bass soloists bring to the delightful trio setting of Gloria patri.

The motet, ‘Nulla in mundo pax sincera’, is written for solo soprano, strings and continuo with an anonymous text. It is a delightful piece, with a Siciliano opening movement that evokes sacred peace. The temptations of the world are described in the recitative and this is followed by an elaborate da capo aria and a concluding Alleluia. Soprano Jane Archibald is well supported by the lively accompaniment of the Aradia Ensemble. Here, as in all the pieces on the disc, Kevin Mallon’s speeds are well chosen. Archibald has a fine sense of style in this music, but there were occasions when I felt her upper register came under strain.

The Gloria has elements which remind you of the more well known version. It is performed with its Introduzion, ‘Jubilate, o amoeni chori’, a lively da capo aria for the soprano soloist (Jane Archibald), followed by a recitative and linking passage leading to the opening movement of the Gloria. Archibald’s contribution is perhaps not quite technically brilliant enough to make up for the twinge of disappointment one can feel at the lack of a good choral opening. This is more than made up for in the choir’s fine contribution to the first movement of the Gloria proper. But in the ‘Et in Terra pax’, the choir’s vivacity and liveliness cannot quite compensate for a lack of suaveness in the descending passages. Again the two soprano soloists have a lovely duet and both the tenor (Nils Brown) and mezzo-soprano (Anita Krause) have solo contributions. Brown acquits himself well, but I had the same doubts about Krause as I did in the Dixit Dominus.

For anyone wanting to start exploring the byways of Vivaldi’s sacred music, this disc would make an excellent start. The Aradia Ensemble are fine stylists and the results are lively attractive performances. The choir are a small, focused group but there are only fifteen of them and the tone in the tenors and altos can get a little nasal and lacking in amplitude. Just occasionally, though, I missed the polish, intensity and depth of sound that characterises the recordings of this repertoire on Hyperion and Opus 111. On this disc, vitality is coupled with a directness and occasional, appealing rawness, whereas both Robert King and Rinaldo Alessandrini manage to combine intensity with liveliness and a smooth sophistication. And their soloists, are frankly, a cut above those on this disc, though the Canadians acquit themselves more than creditably.

But, of course, none of the discs are completely comparable when it comes to repertoire. Anyone wanting the Dixit Dominus, RV595 and Gloria, RV 588 in Robert King’s performances would have to look to two discs, each with its own delightful selection from Vivaldi’s lovely sacred music. The answer is not to hesitate; at super-budget price we can just go out and buy this disc as well.


Robert Hugill



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