Saturday 24 August 2013

Dazzling playing from Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima and some glorious singing from Sally Bruce-Payne on a new release of Vivaldi from Avie

La Serenissima , directed by Adrian Chandler, specializes in the music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), and his contemporaries. They have performed worldwide and in 2010 won a Gramophone Award. Their eleventh CD for Avie Records , Venice by Night, released in June 2012, included world premiere recordings of music by Lotti, Pollarolo, Porta and Veracini alongside better known composers such as Vivaldi and Albinoni and reached the top ten of the UK classical charts. 

Their latest recording for Avie focuses on two Venetian operatic seasons of 1717 and 1733, in a program that juxtaposes the work of the younger Vivaldi with that of the older, more experienced composer who had adapted his music to that of the fashionable Neapolitan style. Including arias from each year with instrumental works certainly makes an attractive format for this new CD.
AV 2287

La Serenissima open with Vivaldi’s Sinfonia to L’Incoronazione di Dario RV719 for strings and continuo in C premiered in the winter season of 1717 at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice. The Allegro is at times crisp, rumbustious and dramatic, providing a fine opening. There is a leisurely Andante, with the ensemble showing lovely transparency with so much detail clearly showing through and some first rate ensemble and phrasing in the concluding Presto.

Three arias from Arsilda RV700, first performed at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice in the autumn season of 1716, and revised for the following season and L’Incoronazione di Dario RV719 for mezzo soprano, strings and continuo follow, with Sally Bruce-Payne (mezzo-soprano) joining La Serenissima.  

What a great voice she has in Ferri, ceppi, sangue, morte (Chains, shackles, blood, death) (L’Incoronazione di Dario) perfect in the intricate decorative passages, full of strength and power in the dramatic moments; a truly operatic voice for these arias. Io sento in questo seno (I feel within this breast) (Arsilda) highlights her control and sensitivity in this gloriously sung aria, beautifully accompanied by La Serenissima. In Sentiro fra ramo,e ramo (I will hear among the branches) (L’Incoronazione di Dario) with its typically Vivaldian opening, full of repeated phrases and rhythms, Sally Bruce-Payne brings a youthful gaiety, full of life and joy.

Vivaldi’s Concerto Gross Mogul for violin, strings and continuo in D RV208 has had an interesting history. The Il gran mogul (The Grand Moghul) is thought by some to have been part of a set of four national concertos now lost but its meaning is unclear. What is unusual for the time is the written out cadenzas that would usually have been improvised.

The Allegro is terrifically played, crisp and vibrant in the opening with superb phrasing from Adrian Chandler who provides some lovely timbres and not a little virtuosity. The cadenza just before the end is terrific. In the second movement, marked Grave – Recitativo, again the transparency of playing and, indeed, the recording allows every detail of the instruments to sound through, with Chandler weaving some lovely sounds. More Vivaldian rhythms open the Allegro, precise, crisp and bold. The playing from Chandler and La Serenissima is absolutely brilliant with the lengthy extended cadenza dazzlingly played.

The Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in B flat RV367 opens with a work that may have formed part of the 1733 season. This is light and fresh Vivaldi, with a dramatic string opening to the Allegro ma poco before the lighter theme on solo violin with such fine accompaniment from La Serenissima. There is a stately Andante ma poco with beautifully flowing playing from Chandler and a lovely Allegro full of fine playing from the whole ensemble.

Sally Bruce-Payne returns in the two arias from Motezuma RV723 for mezzo-soprano, strings and continuo, Vivaldi’s opera first performed during the autumn season of 1733 at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice.

In Quel rossor, ch’in volto miri (That blush you see upon my face), Sally Bruce-Payne has such a musical voice, full and rich, yet not lacking sparkle in this fine aria.  She makes the most of the final dramatic aria on this disc In mezzo alla procella (In the midst of the storm) with singing of tremendous skill and control, full of drama. A stunning performance.

Chandler brings more fine playing to Vivaldi’s Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in C RV191 with crystal clear, vibrant playing with tremendous technical skill in the more intricate passages of the Allegro ma poco. At the opening of the Largo, Eligio Quinteiro’s eleven course theorbo provides some lovely sounds and, when he joins, Chandler brings out the melancholy beauty of this movement, something so often ignored in Vivaldi. There is a vibrant Allegro ma poco with Adrian Chandler providing light, sprung rhythms and such fine playing from La Serenissima to end this terrific disc – one that can equally be played right through or one that can be dipped into with equal enjoyment.

The recording from the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, couldn’t be better. There are informative notes by Adrian Chandler and full texts and English translations. A terrific disc.

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