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Il Pianto di Maria – The Virgin’s Lament
Antonio VIVALDI (1675-1741)
Sonata in E flat major for strings and continuo RV 130 Al Santo Sepolcro [4.50]; Concerto in D minor for strings RV 129 Madrigalesco [4.52]; Sinfonia in B minor for strings RV 169 Al Santo Sepolcro [4.33]
Giovanni Battista FERRANDINI (c.1710-1791)
Il Pianto di Maria
Biagio MARINI (1594-1663)
Passacaglia for strings and continuo [3.48]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Pianto della Madonna (sopra Lamento d’Arianna) [7.16]
Francesco Bartolomeo CONTI (1681/2-1732)
Il martirio di San Lorenzo [5.59]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonata in C minor for two oboes, strings and basso continuo
Bernarda Fink (soprano)
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
rec. Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes de Valladolid, no date given


Experience Classicsonline

The quote on the back of the CD case “Bernarda Fink, in ravishingly Beautiful Baroque Masterpieces on the theme of the passion of Christ” just about sums up neatly the eight works recorded here.

The disc is cannily planned around the Holy Week story of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross. A brief but serious two-movement Vivaldi sonata opens proceedings ‘Al Sancto Sepulcro’ – To the Holy Sepulchre – which is really an adagio and fugue. Then follows a long sectionalized ‘Cantata sacra’ with a Passacaglia using a ground bass also found in the opening. The ‘Pianto della Madonna’ of about 1640 is a contrafactum by Monteverdi himself of his Arianna’s Lament of thirty years earlier. Neatly, Vivaldi follows both with a D minor Concerto with the curious Madrigalesco title and then a Sinfonia also entitled Al Santo Sepulcro. We then hear a moving and little known aria by the shadowy Francesco Conti. This takes the shape of a prayer of St. Lawrence undergoing his own martyrdom by roasting to death on a gridiron “I can feel my strength begin to fail me”. This aria features the rare chalumeau - in effect a deep clarinet - that was later to feed into the modern instrument but was to be remembered for its lower register. Its silky tones work well in this almost sensuous music. Finally there’s a solemn concerto in C minor by Pisendel using the Vivaldi two-movement formula. 

So now let’s put a little flesh on some of these bones. This is one of those CDs that you can listen to in one sitting from end to end which I did at first, such is its variety. However it could be argued that the disc is nothing other than a vehicle for the amazingly pure and beautiful voice of Bernarda Fink yet as you can see the instrumental music is crucial to the concept. The second work which gives its title to the CD Il Pianto di Maria is a cantata and is by far the longest piece here. It is well worthy of our attention. Once, strangely considered to be by Handel, this is now known to be by a composer new to me: Giovanni Ferrandini. He was a Venetian who, rather oddly, died in Munich. It’s a dramatic work more in the early baroque style despite his dates. The text, which like all of them is given in the original and in a good translation, is worth reading first. It begins with a recitative ‘Came the fateful hour ordained by heaven/when to Calvary/its deathly stage prepared/was to walk the Creator’s Son”. The work proceeds via other recits and cavatinas culminating in a passionate da capo aria “My mournful sighs”. I love the way the Passacaglia by Marini begins powerfully just seconds after the cantata’s dark ending and throws you out of your somnolence. Similarly after Monteverdi’s Pianto the soothing Adagio of Vivaldi’s D minor Concerto eases one out of the previous mood so naturally that you forget that the two works were written about one hundred years apart. The disc ends with a glorious two movement Sonata by the Dresden-based, virtuoso violinist Johann Pisendel, a not well known but very striking composer. 

The instrumental work including some wonderfully sensitive continuo playing, led by that fine all-round musician Giovanni Antonini is exemplary. The singing of Bernarda Fink is pure, expressive and so very much stylistically aware - capable of hushed beauty, great depth and power. This is a unique disc and if you enjoy baroque music in any way you need to hear it.

Gary Higginson



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