Vivaldi’s Women (La Serenissima)
Claire Booth (soprano), Renata Pokupić (mezzo-soprano), Jess Dandy (contralto); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (Signum Classics)
Vivaldi’s Women: Viola d’amore Concerto in D minor, RV 394; Violin Concertos, RV 313, 541, and in F (from Harmonia Mundi, Second Collection); Cur sagittas, cur tela, RV 637*; Nisi Dominus, RV 803*
*Claire Booth (soprano), Renata Pokupić (mezzo-soprano), Jess Dandy (contralto); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler
Signum Classics SIGCD699 70:35 mins
Vivaldi’s use of colour and texture is, like the great Venetian painters before him, one of the defining characteristics of his style – as La Serenissima’s new disc vividly demonstrates. This collection of sacred vocal and instrumental works written for the female performers of Venice’s Pietà exploits a host of unusual instruments and vocal timbres. In the Concerto for viola d’amore RV 394 – a work peppered with exotic and virtuosic effects – Adrian Chandler plays a specially commissioned instrument based on a 1716 design by Stradivarius: its sympathetic strings produce a delicately resonant sound – almost ethereal in the concerto’s slow movement. The ‘violino in tromba marina’ takes centre stage in the Concerto RV 313: the instrument, possibly developed by Vivaldi himself, can rasp like a trumpet – hence its name. Feisty outer movements frame an atmospheric Andante in which Chandler etches spectral effects on the instrument’s three strings.
The Introduzione to a now lost setting of the Gloria is dramatically articulated by the husky-toned contralto Jess Dandy. The recording’s most substantial work, though, is the Psalm Nisi Dominus set for three voices and a battery of solo instruments. The viola d’amore makes a steadfast partner to Renata Pokupić’s wavering mezzo in ‘Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem’; the reedy chalumeau pours a warm balm over ‘Cum dederit dilectis suis’, while the velvet sound of the cello is the perfect foil to Claire Booth’s silvery soprano in the ‘Beatus Vir’. La Serenissima’s playing is lithe and efficient throughout, if lacking a little in freedom and fire.