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Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Il Tamerlano RV 703
Bruno Taddia (baritone) Bajazet
Filippo Mineccia (countertenor) – Tamerlano
Delphine Galou (contralto) – Asteria
Sophie Rennert (mezzo) – Irene
Marina De Liso (soprano) – Andronico
Arianna Venditelli (soprano) – Idaspe
Accademia Bizantina / Ottavio Dantone
rec. 7-20 February 2020, Sala Oriana, Antico Convento San Francesco, Bagnacavallo, Ravenna, Italy
NAVE OP7080 [3 CDs: 154:19]

Let me first clear up the matter of the title. The work has, confusingly, two editions. It was commissioned for the Accademia Filarmonico in Verona, and the score titled Il Bajazet is housed in Turin. Another edition, housed in Verona and published as Il Tamerlano, is what we have here. Also, the work is actually a pasticcio, cobbled together from many of Vivaldi’s earlier pieces, and he even borrowed from eight pieces of other composers, sosome of it might well sound familiar. Thankfully, the booklet clearly identifies the sources. As it happens, I already know Fabio Biondi’s recording of Il Bajazet (Virgin 545 6762), but there were five gaps in the music. Bernado Ticci tackled those gaps for the present recording. To be honest, both recordings have strong and weak points; inconsistent singing is a major drawback in both but one quickly becomes accustomed to it. It is easy to find highlights in both, though.

I must admit that when I first played this set, it did not go well. I found the singing, especially the overbright soprano, wanting. The recording did not stay in my player for long. Even so, there are fine passages where Vivaldi’s brilliance shines through. For example, after the glowing Sinfonia that opens the work there is some fabulous singing, both the soloists and the ensemble. Perhaps I just was initially not in the mood.

Bruno Taddia sings splendidly the Act I aria Del Destin non dee lagnars, with a shudder in his voice. Filippo Mineccia’s opening aria In si torbida procella is a great example of controlled countertenor singing. It is a shame that, as the opera progresses, his more dramatic utterances become less controlled. I prefer David Daniels’s singing for Biondi, slightly less dramatic but a little more consistent in tonal beauty. Still, the more dramatic approach is growing on me. There is some wonderful singing in Act II, but due to its more subdued manner and lack of excitement there is less to comment on. It rather is the ensemble work that stands out. The quartet Si crudel questo l’amore at the end of Act II is an apt example: Irene, Bajazet, Asteria and Tamerlano interact quite magnificently. Act III is more exciting than what went before. The soprano Marina De Liso as Andronico leads the way. Her Scene 7 Recitativo and Aria Spesso tra vaghe rose is gorgeous. There is some fine ensemble work in this final act; just consider the quintet Dov’ la figlia? The finale, where all the singers come together to perform Coronata di Gigli e di rose, is a short but magnificent way to conclude the opera: peace eventually wins out.

So, do you need both Il Tamerlano and Il Bajazet? I am happy to have them, and in the end Filippo Mineccia’s more dramatic performance outdoes David Daniels’s role for me. Indeed, after some getting used to, I found the new version superior overall, vocally better balanced. I like the orchestral perfoemance of Accademia Bizantina under Ottavio Dantone more than that of Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi. The recording is helpfully clear, and the warm and sympathetic acoustic of the Sala Oriana cooperates.

Various elements stand out in Dantone’s and Biondi’s versions. If you want just one, then this new recording in Nave’s fabulous Vivaldi edition is the one to go for. And let us not forget the informative and scholarly booklet notes that accompany this recording, along with full text and translations into French and English.

Stuart Sillitoe

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