In Vivaldi's Venice the function of religious music was as much cultural as liturgical, and it was in many ways seen as a form of entertainment. As a celebrated composer of instrumental music and operas, Vivaldi naturally received commissions for sacred music throughout his career, and the earliest that can be traced is the Stabat Mater RV 621 of 1712. The austerity of this piece in F minor, supported by minimalist orchestration, admirably demonstrates the unique quality of the sacred language of the priest-musician, whose faith was to find in musical composition an ideal means of expression. The Nisi Dominus RV 608 for contralto was written for the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where he had been employed as a violin teacher since 1703. This inspired setting of Psalm 126, mingling gripping drama and profound spirituality, illustrated both the mature development of Vivaldi's vocal style and the refinement of his writing for string orchestra.
Voted 'Vocal discovery of the year' at the Victoires de la Musique 2004, nominated in the category 'Artist of the year' at the Victoires in 2005, and winner of 'Vocal artist of the year' at the Victoires de la Musique in 2007, Philippe Jaroussky has established himself as one of the most brilliant stars of his generation. Whether directing his Ensemble Artaserse or working with prestigious orchestras like Jean-Christophe Spinosi's Ensemble Matheus, Jaroussky unfailingly captivates his public through a rare combination of stunning virtuosity and musical intelligence.
Having already won several prestigious awards, including the Special Lied Prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, Marie-Nicole Lemieux began singing leading operatic roles with Orlando furioso (Vivaldi) in Paris in 2003. She then featured on the subsequent recording of the work on Naive which was voted 'Best recording of 2005' at the Victoires de la Musique Classique.
Ensemble Matheus, Jean-Christophe Spinosi (director), Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto)