LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: Stabat mater, RV 621; Concerti sacri, RV 556, 554a & 579; Clarae stellae, scintillate, RV 625
PERFORMER: Sara Mingardo (contralto); Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30367 Reissue (2000)
Vivaldi composed his Stabat mater for a Brescian brotherhood, probably in 1712. His setting, in nine well-sustained movements, encompasses a shortened version of the 13th-century poem. It was probably intended for a countertenor and there are fine such recordings with Gérard Lesne (Harmonic Records), Andreas Scholl (Harmonia Mundi) and, most recently, David Daniels (Virgin). But my own first choice lies firmly with this not-so-newcomer, contralto Sara Mingardo. Not so new, because the disc was issued two years ago by the same company, but carrying a different number. So beware, you may have it already.
Vivaldi’s setting of the Stabat mater is darkly coloured, hardly emerging from the minor key until its concluding and resolutely optimistic cadence. Mingardo sings with an inflective tenderness which, in conjunction with director Rinaldo Alessandrini’s intuitive sensibility, creates a rewarding partnership. These artists explore Vivaldi’s imaginative word-painting and his gently spoken phraseology with insight and pathos, suffusing the piece with expressive fervour and emotional warmth. In addition, Mingardo sings a seldom performed motet, Clarae stellae, which Vivaldi wrote in 1715 for one of his musically talented female pupils at the Ospedale della Pièta in Venice. It is an overtly joyful piece which provides an effective contrast with the other. The remainder of the programme features three of the composer’s concertos, colourfully orchestrated, and a delicately scored Sonata for strings, ‘al Santo Sepolcro’, whose presence unhelpfully is acknowledged neither on the slip-case nor the disc cover, front or back. If your preference is for countertenors then Scholl and Lesne lead the field. Otherwise Mingardo is a clear winner. Nicholas Anderson