Vivaldi: Nisi dominus, RV608; Credo, RV592 – Crucifixus; Stabat Mater

WORKS: Nisi dominus, RV608; Credo, RV592 – Crucifixus; Stabat Mater
PERFORMER: Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor); Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi
Ensemble Matheus and its director Jean-Christophe Spinosi present two of Vivaldi’s most touching sacred pieces for solo voice: the Vespers psalm Nisi Dominus (RV608) and the Stabat Mater. Both works are accompanied by strings, the Nisi Dominus containing additional contrast with a movement scored for muted instruments and another featuring the delicate timbre of a solo viola d’amore. Numerous recordings exist of these two works, some of them sung by a countertenor, others by a female mezzo-soprano or contralto. Spinosi calls upon each voice type, allotting the Nisi Dominus to Philippe Jaroussky and the Stabat Mater to Marie-Nicole Lemieux. Both singers unite in the brief Crucifixus from Vivaldi’s G major Credo (RV592).Among rival versions of the Nisi Dominus, James Bowman’s now elderly recording with the Academy of Ancient Music (Decca) stands up well. His plangent vocal timbre suits the music perhaps rather better than Jaroussky’s thinner texture. Yet Jaroussky’s expressive delicacy is beguiling and he is everywhere accompanied with acute sensibility by Ensemble Matheus. Most recent recordings of the Stabat Mater feature a countertenor, but notable exceptions lie in a version with Sara Mingardo (Naïve) and the present one with Lemieux. If you prefer a countertenor, then Scholl’s version (Harmonia Mundi) or that of Carlos Mena are worth considering; otherwise, in the Stabat Mater the laurels are weighted in favour of Mingardo who seems to find more of interest in the music and better knows how to communicate it.