ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi
WORKS: Laudate pueri Dominum
PERFORMER: Tracy Smith Bessette (soprano), Marion Newman (mezzo-soprano); Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557852
Volume 2 of Naxos’ projected ‘Vivaldi’s Complete Sacred Music’ features two fresh and uncomplicated voices. Tracy Smith Bessette is a glorious soprano in the infectiously exultant Canta in prato, ‘Sing in the meadow, laugh on the hill’. Her fluent passage-work is a particular delight, enhanced by exciting ornaments stretching her to Baroque-pitch top D – albeit a mere C sharp in today’s money! Marion Newman’s is a more restrained voice, naturally subdued by its lower contralto register but also by her limited persuasive ardour in the opening aria of Clarae stellae. Her approach suits perfectly the dolorous mood of the Stabat Mater, where Vivaldi repeats the music to create a taut structure through constantly-changing text.
The most substantial piece here, Laudate pueri meets compelling competition. I have enthused previously about Robert King’s Hyperion recording, though Susan Gritton’s display of pinpoint accuracy in the fast movements is rather far forward of King’s splendid Consort’s strings. For an account which adds hot-blooded Mediterranean impetuosity to Vivaldi’s sparkling vocal fireworks, consider Patrizia Ciofi with Europa Galante/Biondi on Virgin. Bessette, though, matches both of these accounts, whether in the vitality of Vivaldi’s concerto-like allegros or in her heavenly sound in slow movements.
We owe a great deal to Naxos for discovering and promoting hidden talent. Their patronage has revealed the excellent Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble and Kevin Mallon, their director. Their accompaniment here is rhythmically well-sprung and thoughtfully but discreetly phrased. Recording balance is good too, voices forward but not over-assertively so, and all bathed in the reverberant acoustic of a Canadian church. A delightful disc. George Pratt