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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Pietà - Sacred works
Track listing below review
Ensemble Artaserse/Philippe Jaroussky (director, counter-tenor)
rec. 20-28 March 2014, Paroisse Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris, France
ERATO 2564 625750 [CD: 78.30 + DVD: 20.00]

My first hearing of counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky was on the release Pergolesi - Stabat Mater on Erato followed by the fascinating Music For A While - Improvisations on Henry Purcell with L’Arpeggiata directed by Christina Pluhar also on Erato.
 
Jaroussky is an experienced Vivaldi performer having cut his teeth on a number of the Red Priest’s opera recordings notably Griselda, La verita in cimento, La Fida Ninfa and Orlando furioso for Naïve. On the present release Jaroussky directs Ensemble Artaserse, a period instrument group which he founded in 2005, for their third Vivaldi solo recital album on Erato. This followed the 2005 release Virtuoso Cantatas and from 2010 Stabat Mater - Motets to the Virgin Mary.
 
Opening the release is the motet Clara stellae scintillate, RV 625 a work of modest scope in four movements in praise of the Virgin Mary. Most likely it was written for the Feast of the Visitation at Ospedale della Pietà orphanage for girls and performed in 1715 and sung by the talented Geltruda; a Pieta resident. The principal work in this collection of sacred cantatas for alto voice is the Stabat Mater, RV 621. One of Vivaldi’s greatest works it is engagingly sung here by Jaroussky. Composition dates are extremely difficult to find for Vivaldi scores but it is known that the nine movement Stabat Mater was performed in 1712 at Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace, Brescia. In three sections, the splendid motet Filiae maestae Jerusalem, RV 638 may have been one of the Introduzioni al Miserere used to assess Vivaldi’s capability as maestro de coro by the Pietà governors in 1715 and may have been sung by Geltruda.

Here the programme of sacred music is divided by the purely instrumental Concerto in C minor for strings and continuo, RV 120. Vibrantly played here by Ensemble Artaserse it’s a very short three movement piece lasting just over five minutes.
 
Vivaldi wrote three works entitled Gloria in excelsis Deo but only two survive, one of which is this Gloria in D major, RV 589. It is thought to have been written around 1715. Jaroussky has included only the sixth section Domine Deus where the accompanist is oboist Emmanuel Laporte. The booklet notes give a quote from musicologist Michael Talbot who considered the Domine Deus as “the epitome of melting Vivaldian lyricism.” Philippe Jaroussky writes that he has wanted to record the Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, RV 629 for some time. It's a piece with operatic features requiring significant technical vocal display which Jaroussky says “that I find absolutely fascinating.” The final work is the Salve Regina in G Minor, RV 618, a Marian antiphon sung for the Feast of the Blessed Trinity. Composed somewhere between the mid-1720s and the early-1730s this six movement work is scored for two string cori and a pair of oboes. I believe Philippe Jaroussky to be the foremost counter-tenor of his generation comparable to Andreas Scholl at his peak. In this Vivaldi repertoire Jaroussky’s smooth, fluid-toned voice is in quite glorious estate. Steadfast in technique with an engaging timbre I marvel at the vivid tone colours he effortlessly creates. Jaroussky never forgets the sacred significance of this repertoire and faithfully upholds the appropriate degree of reverence.
 
Under assured direction the performance by Ensemble Artaserse is immaculate and convincingly evidences its prowess both technically and artistically. Recorded under studio conditions using period instruments I was delighted with the gratifying intonation and unity of ensemble. Both soloist and orchestra have achieved an admirable balance between sacred reverence and dramatic expression.
Eighteen strong here, including a four strong basso-continuo section, Ensemble Artaserse deliver highly persuasive playing high on vitality and with no shortage of refinement.
 
The twenty-minute bonus DVD makes a fine appetizer. The viewer accompanies Jaroussky to several notable Venetian locations in Vivaldi’s life such as his birthplace, the San Giovanni Battista in Bragora where Vivaldi was baptised and the Ospedale della Pietà where Vivaldi worked. Accompanying this short guide are music excerpts from the Stabat Mater; Longe mala, umbrae, terrores and Filiae maestae Jerusalem all filmed during the recording sessions in Paris.
 
The recording provides clear, well balanced sound quality. I can confirm that full Latin texts are provided with translations in English, French and German. The cover image shows Jaroussky high up inside the Pietà clutching the iron grille, behind which the orphan girls would have performed. The bonus DVD and Frédéric Delaméa’s fine essay add to the admirable presentation of this release.
 
Michael Cookson
 
Track listing
Clara stellae scintillate, RV 625 [10.44]
Stabat Mater, RV 621 [19.46]
Filiae maestae Jerusalem, RV 638 [9.26]
Concerto in C minor for strings and continuo, RV 120 [5.19]
Domine Deus from Gloria in D Major, RV 589 [3.49]
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, RV 629 [15.23]
Salve Regina in G Minor, RV 618 [13.52]
Full Latin texts provided with translations in English, French and German
Bonus DVD
Sacred works for alto - Following in Vivaldi’s footsteps in Venice
Music highlights from Stabat Mater; Longe mala, umbrae, terrores; Filiae maestae Jerusalem
Filmed in Venice and during the recording sessions in Paris
Colour / PAL 16:9 / Audio: Stereo