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Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Magnificat, RV610/11 [18.51]
Salve Regina, RV617 [9.44]
Concerto in D minor, ‘Madrigalesco’, RV 129 [3.33]
Nisi Dominus, RV 608 [19.56]
Kyrie, RV 587 [8.50]
In fuore iustissimae irae, RV 626 [12.22]
Carla Huhtanen (soprano) (RV587,617,626); Lynne McMurtry (mezzo) (RV587,608,610); Eve Rachel McLeod (soprano) (RV587); Jennifer Enss Modolo (mezzo) (RV587)
Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
rec. Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada, 9-12 January 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570445 [73.51]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the third volume of Naxos’s Vivaldi Sacred Music edition performed by the Canada-based Aradia Ensemble directed by Kevin Mallon. Volume 1 concentrated on choral music (8.550767). Volume 2 (8.557852 - see review) included some of the best known sacred pieces for solo voice and orchestra. This third volume mixes choral and solo pieces, but with the emphasis on the solo voice.
The disc opens with Vivaldi’s Magnificat, a piece which appears to exist in four different versions, the grandest of which is RV610a which seems to have been adapted for two choruses. On this disc the ensemble perform Vivaldi’s final version RV611 written for performance at the Pieta in 1739. Vivaldi has added five entirely new solo movements to pre-existing choral numbers. All of the solo movements were designed to be sung by members of the Pieta. On this disc all the solos are sung by a single singer, Lynne McMurtry.
It is a slightly curious experience listening to this piece if you are more familiar with one of the Magnificat’s earlier incarnations - these are the ones which have tended to be recorded. McMurtry is convincing in the solo part, even though written for more than one original soloist. She has a warm-toned voice but is let down by the rather laboured quality of her runs.
In both Robert King’s Vivaldi series on Hyperion and Rinaldo Alessandrini’s series on Na´ve, the version of the Magnificat favoured is RV610a. This makes this disc something of a novelty in recording the later version.
There are three different surviving settings of the Salve Regina by Vivaldi. RV617 dates from 1717-18 and includes a lovely solo violin line in two of the movements. The soprano solo is sung by Carla Huhtanen who has a bright voice which has a tendency to be wayward in its upper register.
Mallon and his ensemble follow this with a short concerto for string orchestra. It is quite an appropriate piece for this collection as it might have had a vocal origin and the opening Adagio is related to the Kyrie, RV587 and to the Magnificat both of which are also included on this disc.
The Nisi Dominus, RV608 belongs to Vivaldi’s early period at the Pieta. Nisi Dominus is a Vespers psalm. During the later baroque period it was the Sunday Vespers which attracted most attention from composers. The solo part is ably taken by Lynne McMurtry.
The Kyrie, RV587 is written for double chorus and double string orchestra - grand forces which suggest a grand occasion for performance.
Finally we get another of Vivaldi’s motets for solo voice and orchestra. This one dates from 1724 when he was in Rome for the staging of his opera Il Giustino. Cardinal Ottoboni was the patron of the opera so it is possible that he is linked to the motet as well. In which case it may have been written for Ottoboni’s church of San Lorenzo in Damaso and may well have originally been sung by a castrato. The opening da capo aria depicts the fury indicated in the text; the central movement provides some respite and contrast, then a short recitative leads to a poignant Largo da capo aria, the mood being broken by a final florid alleluia.
The work was obviously written for a virtuoso singer and Carla Huhtanen copes admirably. But this does bring out the main weakness of the recording; the soloists are all capable and musical but never quite as bravura or virtuoso as they should be. Both Huhtanen and McMurtry sound a little taxed, in their different ways, by the solo parts.
This is made noticeable when you compare some of the performances with the Vivaldi editions on Hyperion and Na´ve. In the Nisi Dominus McMurtry has to cope with competition from Sara Mingardo and Natalie Stutzman. Both Stutzman and Mingardo have rather darker voices than McMurtry. But in their different ways they both throw off the bravura elements with more Úlan than McMurtry, whose performance is a little too dogged for my taste.
Similarly in the Salve Regina, Huhtanen has to cope with competition from Susan Gritton on Hyperion. Whilst Gritton is not ideally Italianate, I do prefer her performance to Huhtanen’s.
Mallon and his ensemble accompany magnificently and provide some fine solo moments. If choice had to be made on the basis of accompaniment alone, than this new disc has much to commend it. But Vivaldi’s music was written for virtuosos and modern day performances must cope with the demands of these pieces. Mallon’s soloists are capable, creditable, musical and acceptable; but they don’t quite thrill me the way some of the performances on Robert King and Rinaldo Alessandrini’s set do.
Robert Hugill


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