Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, etc /Chance · Pinnock
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CHANCE / PINNOCK / ENGLISH CON
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The combination of Priest and Musician was not uncommon in Vivaldi's day and he was both,although because of poor health he was not able to function as a priest, which left him a great deal of time to compose music. He turned the exuberance of his instrumental music to good account in his sacred vocal works,laying the foundation for the symphonic style in the masses of Haydn and Mozart.
Of his 50-0dd surviving vocal compositions the 'Stabat Mater'is the earliest to which we can assign a date. It was written as a hymn for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in 1712. Although the music remains rather morose thruout following the sorrowful spirit of the text, the radiant major chord ending the "Amen" offers us a consolatory glimpse of Paradise.
Vivaldi's setting of the Vesper psalm 'Nisi Dominus' dating from 1717, was composed for one of the celebrated female choristers of the Pieta. It is a highly dramatic work, full of picturesque touches. The most memorable movement is the 'Gloria Patri', in which a solo viola d'amore appears as obligato partner to the voice..
The 'vale of tears' becomes an explicit image in the 'Salve Regina', one of two very similar settings by Vivaldi of this Marion antiphon for alto and strings disposed in two 'cori'. It probabably dates from the mid 1720's. Like many of his other sacred vocal works from this period the 'Salve Regina' shows great flamboyance in its instrumental and especially vocal writing. Vivaldi is not too ambitious in the handling of the two string ensembles, but this tossing between them of short motifs achieves attractive results.
There are two instrumental selections on this recording by Vivaldi which, strictly speaking,are as "sacred" as his compositions on liturgical texts, since they were written for performances in church. An example is the 'Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro'. This is a two movement church sonata for strings intended to be played before a representation of the 'Holy Sepulchre' during a 24 hour devotion. The 'Concerto RV128' in four parts is more conventionally conceived and possesses a directness and urgency, and along with its simple lyricism shows Vivaldi's growing interest in opera during his later years.
There is no doubt in my mind that being able to acquire all three Vivaldi works for alto and strings all included on this recording, and sung most expertly AND inspiringly by Michael Chance, is a purchasing advantage. This recording was made in November of 1995, and very shortly thereafter several recordings appeared on the scene simply because these works are real show pieces for the countertenor voice, but this is the only disc that I know of that has all three together. Andreas Scholl's 2000 recording contains the 'Nisi Dominus' and the 'Salve Regina', whereas David Daniel's includes only two of the works.
The singing of the countertenor,Michael Chance, who is the soloist in all three of the vocal compositions is absolutely OUTSTANDING! His tone quality is warm and rich with vibrancy and excitement. In fact, it is incredible how much life he gives to Vivaldi. His dynamics are impressive rising to the top of each pharse and then tapering it just right. His contrast in volume is perfectly attuned to the Latin meanings which are very profound in all three of the Vivaldi compositions: Nisi Dominus; Stabat Mater and Salve Regina. And of course the diction is flawless.
I would be remiss not to mention the skill of Trevor Pinnock, who is so sensitive to the composer as well as to the perfoming artist. He enables the performer to work with such things as tempo and THAT is one reason why I prefer Chance's performance to any other, of which I have three!. Everything is just right about this rendition. Vivaldi lovers should really love this one!!!!