Hommage à Vivaldi
Vivaldi: In turbato mare irato, RV627; Kyrie, RV587; Nisi Dominus, RV608; Credo, RV591, etc
Vivica Genaux (mezzo-soprano); Vienna Chamber Choir; Bach Consort Wien/Rubén Dubrovsky
Sony 19075836762 72:42 mins
Conductor Rubén Dubrovsky has delivered a master stroke. Combining top talent, unfamiliar repertory, and a pristine recording acoustic, he makes us hear why Venetians adored Vivaldi’s sacred music. His programme comes from around 1716, when Vivaldi unexpectedly came to direct concerts at Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, a favourite resort of fashionista. For this audience Vivaldi wrote flash solo motets for guest castratos, and concerto-styled mass settings for his all-female musicians. The solo motets’ ridiculous poetry – ‘longed-for flame of heaven’, ‘calming stars’ and so on – gave Vivaldi and the castratos licence to strut their affective stuff; as a musical alternative, Vivaldi made band and choir jostle for attention in his mass music.
Vivica Genaux brings a fascinating swagger to the solo motets. Her chest voice has a baritone richness; in higher registers, she can sound virginal or diva-ish. Zooming through scalar passages and leaping around registers, she turns doggerel Latin into moving statements. Unusually, she often cues her interpretive moves to harmonic rhythm – a good instance is track 11, Vivaldi’s siciliano setting of the Psalm 127, ‘Cum dederit’. To its gentle strumming Genaux brings a hushed stillness, changing dynamics only when chords shift. That’s virtuosity at its most subtle. Wedged between solo motets are Vivaldi’s Kyrie and Credo settings, in which the band’s fiery ritornellos fight to eclipse the choir’s sublime homophony. Urged on by Dubrovsky, the Bach Consort Wien bustles through this score; the Wienerkammer Chor match their vigour, though not their variety. Recorded in the Hofburgkappelle in Vienna, this performance would make Vivaldi proud.