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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Musica sacra per alto
Filiae maestae Jerusalem, RV638 [7:43]
Deus tuorum militum, RV612 [3:56]
Concerto in D major for violin and double orchestra ‘The Assumption of the Virgin Mary’, RV582 [17:26]
Salve Regina, RV618 [14:27]
Non in pratis, RV641 [11.06]
Regina coeli, RV615 [4:01]
Delphine Galou (contralto)
Alessandro Giangrande (tenor), Alessandro Tampieri (violin)
Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
rec. 2018, Sala Oriani, Convento San Francesco, Bagnacavallo, Italy
Latin texts with English and French translations included
NA¤VE OP30569 [59:47]

Much of Vivaldi’s sacred music remains widely unknown, so it is a great pleasure to find that volume 59 of Na´ve’s ongoing recordings of the composer’s manuscripts highlights some unusual items in that repertoire. These are works for solo voice and orchestra, rather than choir, but they are no less interesting for that.

Vivaldi appears to have pioneered the form of the introduzione to a larger sacred set piece, really like a solo motet to act as a curtain raiser to the liturgical main act. He wrote one, Ostro picta, for his famous setting of the Gloria, as featured on volume 43 of Na´ve’s edition, though unfortunately it is seldom encountered elsewhere in connection with that ubiquitous work. The two instances on this latest release are both solemn works as they are designed to precede a setting of the penitential Miserere – though which one we do not now know.

Filiae maestae Jerusalem is imbued with a similar intense mood as the composer’s Stabat Mater, but Delphine Galou brings a passionate, almost operatic, urgency to the setting, even in its sombre opening accompanied recitative. Some listeners may expect and prefer something more demure, for instance James Bowman’s account for the King Consort’s complete survey of Vivaldi’s scared music (review); but certainly her interpretation is neither flustered or hurried. Although she emphasises certain notes and phrases with fulsome emotion, she sustains them clearly, without vibrato so that a haunting, disembodied quality still, rightly, obtains. Non in pratis is executed with more alacrity – supported by a silken cushion of string sonority from Accademia Bizantina in the central aria – but Galou still exudes a simple, straightforward artfulness that communicates the text freshly and effectively.

The performance of antiphon Salve Regina treads a path between those two styles of interpretation, bearing a generally more reserved and direct devotional character, though Galou draws out the cadential phrase on “ad te suspiramus” expressively. She is joined by tenor Alessandro Giangrande for a joyfully lilting account of the hymn Deus tuorum militum as well as two pert-sounding oboes. For no stated reason Giangrande takes the antiphon Regina coeli, which concludes the disc, rather than Galou, cultivating a deep-throated timbre that resembles a female voice at low pitch. Perhaps it lies too low for Galou, but certainly Vivaldi wrote parts for some of the young women of La Pietß which match the range of a male tenor and that they could apparently manage. In this work Vivaldi also specified obbligato parts for two unusual violins in tromba marina – violins with a device fitted in the bridge to make them more raucously resonant, vaguely mimicking the reedy tone of a brass instrument such as a trumpet, and which he also featured in a handful of concertos. For the sake of exotic variety it is a pity those instruments are not used, as Adrian Chandler and Fabio Biondi have recreated them in RV221 and RV311, and RV558 and RV555 respectively, showing that it is possible. But there is no doubt that the two real trumpets used in substitution here make a more resplendent effect.

At the centre of the disc is a flashy Violin Concerto which Vivaldi composed with the accompaniment of two orchestras for the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin. After the bold unison arpeggios which begin the work, the antiphonal exchanges between the two orchestras are brought out in the fairly reverberant acoustic of this recording, but it is a pity that their opposition does not come across more clearly and consistently throughout the work subsequently. Alessando Tampieri plays the solo part efficiently; if his violin does not always sparkle in tone, he makes up for that with some piquant ornamentation he occasionally adds to the solo episodes, and to the repeats of each section of the slow movement, for example by outlining intervals of a diminished third which do not merely decorate the melodic line but freely interpret its latent harmony.

This is another valuable instalment in Na´ve’s Vivaldi Edition which brings to light more little-known aspects of the composer’s sacred and vocal output. It particularly complements the clever compilation of similar repertoire put together in the same series as a vespers programme (review).

Curtis Rogers

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