Top positive review
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showing Vivaldi in a Caravaggio-like light
on 2 September 2015
Posing as an errant schoolboy on the cover gets the daring note of this album, the speed of Philippe Jaroussky's singing and the verve of every number. The arias are surprisingly varied, perhaps, if one is relatively new to Vivaldi's opera output as I am. They range from the highly virtuosic to the poignant, as in the first two tracks. The second has descending staccato chords in the strings against which the solo line weaves a cantilena beguiling indeed. The words are likewise sublime as a statement on the bliss of love. The emotions evoked throughout are succinct, often tragic, as the title 'Heroes' implies, but sometimes sounding quite jolly, almost, in spite of the difficulties the characters face. No doubt the conventions required this as putting on a brave face. In the middle of the disc there is a long aria from Andromeda liberata - almost ten minutes - with a poignant violin obbligato played by the conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi. You imagine him to be an angel from Botticelli, making such ethereal, exquisite sounds against the fuller vocal timbre. A later number, also outstanding and highlighted by the notes, sounds very Bachian in its harmonic richness (Perdona, o figlio amato, from Farnace). You realise that Vivaldi was a composer of surprising range, and the playing of the Ensemble Matheus brings out the angularity of line and rhythmic energy, often accompanied by a certain textural bareness. Two tracks have pizzicato accompaniment only, like landing on a feather pillow. In the others the precision and attack of the playing is remarkable, no doubt down in part to the inspired direction of Spinosi. However the biggest praise must go to Jaroussky: in fast passages his accuracy in runs seems to equal that of Marilyn Horne - the control is breathtaking. A number of photos show both men not only to look as good as the music sounds, but to engage in playful poses together that suggest the rapport that comes across in their musical collaboration.