Vivaldi: Nisi Dominus; Salve regina, RV 616; Clarae stellae, scintillate; Vestro Principi divino

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Nisi Dominus; Salve regina, RV 616; Clarae stellae, scintillate; Vestro Principi divino
PERFORMER: Andreas Scholl (countertenor); Australian Brandenburg Orchestra/Paul Dyer
CATALOGUE NO: 466 964-2
Andreas Scholl has chosen four solo vocal works by Vivaldi for his latest recording. Two of them, the motets Clarae stellae, scintillate and Vestro Principi divino, are infrequently performed; the C minor Salve regina has enjoyed wider currency in recent years, but it is the beautifully crafted Nisi Dominus which steals the limelight here, with music of exquisite tenderness. In all probability, most of the pieces were composed for a woman’s voice; indeed, in the case of Clarae stellae, that is confirmed both by its contextual relationship with the Pietà orphanage for women in Venice, where Vivaldi worked for many years, and by his autograph score on which the female singer is named. Irrespective of historical propriety, my preference lies with a woman’s voice in this music, though when sung by a countertenor of Scholl’s sensibility, it often seems hardly to matter. His performance of the Nisi Dominus is especially alluring for its expressive intimacy and delicacy of timbre. Two contrasting movements, above all, speak volumes for Vivaldi’s inspirational gifts, a limpidly poised G minor ‘Cum dederit somnum’ in the rhythm of a siciliana and a heart-rending ‘Gloria patri’ (E flat), where the voice is accompanied by viola d’amore – an instrument close to Vivaldi’s heart – and organ. The disc also includes two concertos for ripieno strings, but it’s the Nisi Dominus which readers will find irresistible. Nicholas Anderson

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