VIVALDI Vespro a San Marco • Leonardo Garcia Alarcón, cond; Namur CCh; Les Agrémens (period instruments) • AMBRONAY AMY029 (2 CDs: 117:48 Text and Translation) Live: Ambronay 10/2/2010
Maria Soledad de la Rosa, Mariana Flores, Caroline Weynants (sopranos), Joëlle Charlier, Evelyn Ramirez (altos), Fabián Schofrin (counter-tenor), Valerio Contaldo, Fernando Guimarães (tenors), Alejandro Meerapfel (bass) & Lionel Desmeules (antiennes)
Choeur de Chambre de Namur & Les Agrémens, Leonardo Garcia Alarcon
Vivaldi never wrote a Vesper service. Indeed, though he wrote a fair amount of church music, he never wrote any complete services (such as Monteverdi did, say), nor did he write for St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, as far as we know. The liturgical construction of this recording is an Dixit Dominus (Ps. 109, RV 807), Confitebor (Ps. 110, RV 596), Beatus vir (Ps. 111, RV 795), Laudate pueri (Ps. 112, RV 600), Lauda Jerusalem (Ps. 147, RV 609), Laetatus sum (Ps. 121, RV 607), and the Magnificat (RV 610). There is also the introductory versicle and response Deus in adiutorium , which may be RV 593.
Some of the music in this collection was unknown until 1974, and as a set of Vesper pieces, this is a fine collection, well done. Leonardo Garcia Alarcón takes fairly brisk tempi and this underlines the essentially joyful aspects of these texts. His many soloists are all very good, but the two fine sopranos, Mariana Flores and Maria Soledad de la Rosa, get the bulk of the work. The 20-voice choir sings refreshingly cleanly, and the largely string orchestra fits delicately, but not shyly, into the overall acoustical scheme. My only disappointment is the utterly wooden and lifeless chanting of the antiphons.
Most of the psalms have been recorded before, notably in Robert King’s complete set (Hyperion). Peter Kopp’s recording of the relatively recently discovered Dixit Dominus (Archiv) was enthusiastically reviewed by Brian Robins ( Fanfare 30:2). I haven’t heard that performance, but this one is a delight. Also delightful is the short Lauda Jerusalem , whose ecstatic soprano roulades are matched by the chorus and orchestra.
This is Vivaldi at his most vivacious and helps us hear more of his fecund invention. Alarcón and his musicians clearly respond closely to this music, and rightly so. The recording is exemplary and the audience even more so (apart from applauding after the Magnificat, before the end of the “service”). If you can only afford one survey of Vivaldi sacred music, make it this one.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
The motets presented here are laid out as for a vesper service: the invitatory followed by five psalms with antiphon, and finally the Magnificat. Leonardo Garcia Alarcon has opted for the antiphons for the feast of St Mark, patron saint of Venice. The liturgy can only be genuinely experienced in situ, in the nave of an illuminated church decked out in its finest ornaments for a solemn occasion. This recording is, rather than a reconstruction, an evocation of the Office of Vespers, whose principal framework is the appropriate music composed by Vivaldi.
Leonardo García Alarcón has been artistic director of the Choeur de Chambre de Namur since January 2010. In the same year he began a three-year residency at the Centre Culturel de Rencontre d’Ambronay. For Ambronay Éditions, he has already recorded programmes of music by Peter Philips and Barbara Strozzi, Handel’s Judas Maccabæus with the Choeur de Chambre de Namur and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
“For several years now, I have tried to imagine Vivaldi the priest in the context of a vesper service. This imaginative exercise enables me to set in sharper relief Vivaldi the man of the Church, whereas it is the operatic composer who is so much in vogue these days, and it helps me get closer to a ‘spiritual’ Vivaldi, more in phase with his ecclesiastical office. We possess few clues and virtually no historical documents to identify the occasions for which Vivaldi set these psalms to music. The Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Les Agrémens and I have taken the liberty of imagining a set of Vespers such as the prete rosso might have assembled at some point in his life. In an age when Vivaldi seems to live only in the opera house, here is a selection of pieces devoted to the Divine Office and more specifi cally to the feast of St Mark, the patron saint of Venice.” Leonardo García Alarcón.
“Both [Flores and de la Rosa] have an agility and purity of tone that make them ideal Baroque stylists...Les Agrémens plays with strong attack and crisp ensemble. As its lithe and precise singing on this recording shows, the Choeur de Chambre de Namur is one of the most accomplished mixed-voice choirs specializing in Early Music.” International Record Review, July 2011