Vivaldi: Motets, RV 623, 628, 629, 630, 631 & 633

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Opus 111 Tesori del Piemonte
WORKS: Motets, RV 623, 628, 629, 630, 631 & 633
PERFORMER: Anke Herrmann (soprano), Laura Polverelli (mezzo-soprano); Academia Montis Regalis/Alessandro de Marchi
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30340
This most recent addition to the Opus 111 Vivaldi survey evenly distributes six motets between soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists, accompanied by strings and continuo. Nothing here is new to the catalogue and readers who have been collecting the ongoing Hyperion series of Vivaldi’s sacred music (see below) will have all but one of them. His motets make considerable technical and expressive demands upon their vocal executants; the element of virtuosity is seldom far away and each piece concludes with an ‘Alleluia’, which provides the soloist with opportunities for dazzling display.

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Anke Herrmann and Laura Polverelli are sympathetic singers with voices and techniques well able to explore expressive nuances and to surmount the sometimes daunting exuberance of Vivaldi’s melodic contours. Yet Herrmann lacks the discipline and restraint demonstrated, for example, by Susan Gritton and Deborah York in Robert King’s Hyperion series. While the quality of her voice is mainly pleasing, though not without a hint of tightness in the uppermost register, she has a tendency to scoop up to notes. Polverelli is the more convincing of the two. She brings stronger characterisation to the music and her technique is more secure. The support offered by the Academia Montis Regalis is responsive and mainly unanimous and Alessandro de Marchi’s direction is spirited and stylish. All the music, by the way, is performed at modern pitch which approaches that which was seemingly customary in Venice in Vivaldi’s time. Be that as it may, two of the motets were written in Rome in all probability for a Roman singer.

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An enjoyable issue, then, and choosing between it and the principal rival is choosing between swings and roundabouts. Some may like the fragility of Herrmann’s voice more than I do, but most readers, I believe, will respond to Polverelli’s accomplished singing. Nicholas Anderson