Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Monday, January 02, 2017

Antonio Vivaldi: Nisi Dominus, & Stabat Mater – Carlos Mena, Ricercar Consort, Philippe Pierlot

Spanish countertenor Carlos Mena sings Antonio Vivaldi's "Nisi dominus", RV 608, and "Stabat Mater", RV 621. Belgian instrumental ensemble Ricercar Consort conducted by Philippe Pierlot. Recorded in Nantes, France, La Folle Journée, February 1, 2015.

Ο διεθνούς φήμης Ισπανός κόντρα-τενόρος Carlos Mena ερμηνεύει τα έργα "Nisi dominus", RV 608, and "Stabat Mater", RV 621, του Αντόνιο Βιβάλντι. Τον συνοδεύει το βελγικό οργανικό σύνολο Ricercar Consort υπό τη διεύθυνση του ιδρυτή του, 59χρονου Βέλγου γκαμπίστα και μαέστρου, οπαδού της «ιστορικά τεκμηριωμένης μουσικής εκτέλεσης» των έργων, Philippe Pierlot. Η συναυλία δόθηκε στο πλαίσιο του Φεστιβάλ κλασικής μουσικής La Folle Journée, στη γαλλική πόλη Ναντ, την 1η Φεβρουαρίου 2015.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

♪ Nisi dominus, RV 608 (c. 1717)

i. Nisi Dominus
ii. Vanum est vobis
iii. Surgite
iv. Cum dederit
v. Sicut sagittae
vi. Beatus vir
vii. Gloria Patri
viii. Sicut erat in principio
ix. Amen

Carlos Mena, countertenor

Ricercar Consort
Conductor: Philippe Pierlot

La Folle Journée, Nantes, France, February 1, 2015

(HD 720p)

Nisi Dominus, RV 608, is Vivaldi's most extended and artistically ambitious Psalm setting for solo voice to have survived. It certainly dates from his "first" period, but no one has yet established whether or not it was written for the Pietà. It survives in Turin not as an autograph score but as a set of parts copied out by the composer himself, his father and other hands. This suggests that its original, or perhaps its eventual, destination lay outside the Pietà's walls. It was Vivaldi's father who copied out the obbligato viola d'amore part for the "Gloria". In its notated form, this part treats three of the four upper strings as transposing "instruments" – the open strings of the viola d'amore are tuned to D, F and D instead of the E, D and G familiar to a violinist – a procedure that leads to bizarre visual effects. Fingered as they would be on the violin, however, the notes make perfect harmonic and melodic sense.

It has long been known that the Pietà produced excellent players of the six-stringed viola d'amore. Among them were the celebrated Anna Maria (1696-1782), for whom Vivaldi composed two viola d'amore concertos, and her successor as principal violinist, Chiaretta (1718-1796). Only recently did the first testimony to Vivaldi himself as a virtuoso of that instrument turn up: in 1717, en route from Bologna to Venice, he celebrated a stopover in the small city of Cento with an impromptu performance on the viola d'amore in a local church, which was packed so full that the overspilling listeners had to jostle for space outside in the road. So the intended soloist in the Nisi Dominus could well have been the composer himself.

The nine movements are as varied in style and scoring as one could imagine. Two ("Vanum est vobis" and "Beatus vir") are simple continuo arias, while one ("Sicut sagittae") has a string accompaniment in unison with the voice, and two others ("Nisi Dominus", with its abridged and retexted reprise "Sicut erat in principio") are church arias in a lively concerto style. "Cum dederit" conveys drowsiness by being set in a slow siciliana style and employing a distinctive motive with chromatically ascending lines that the composer often introduces in association with the idea of sleep (as in the second solo episode in the first movement of his "Spring" Concerto, RV 269); for this movement leaden mutes (piombi) are prescribed.

The most original movement is the third ("Surgite"), which is cast as an accompanied recitative, counterposing rapid ascending figures expressing the act of standing up to slow, reflective passages for the "bread of sorrows". The final "Amen" imitates the style of an "Alleluia" in a motet. But the spiritual fulcrum of the Nisi Dominus lies in the "Gloria", which instead of being the usual expression of simple joy, is a brooding, dark-hued movement full of solitude.

Source: Michael Talbot, 2000

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

♪ Stabat Mater, RV 621 (1712)

i. Stabat mater dolorosa
ii. Cujus animam gementem
iii. O quam tristis et afflicta
iv. Quis est homo
v. Quis non posset contristari
vi. Pro peccattis suae gentis
vii. Eia mater, fons amoris
viii. Fac ut ardeat cor meum
ix. Amen

Carlos Mena, countertenor

Ricercar Consort
Conductor: Philippe Pierlot

La Folle Journée, Nantes, France, February 1, 2015

(HD 720p)

Stabat Mater, RV 621, this justly popular work belongs to the very first generation of Vivaldi sacred vocal music to be discovered and revived in the twentieth century. Alfredo Casella included it, alongside the even more celebrated Gloria, RV 589, in his pioneering "Vivaldi Week" at Siena in 1939, and it has been available in print since 1949. The circumstances that led to its composition for Brescia in 1712 were described earlier. One point needs to be made very clear: unlike the composers of other famous settings of the time – who include Pergolesi, the two Scarlattis, Steffani and D'Astorga – Vivaldi does not set the complete poem of twenty three-line stanzas plus an "Amen", as appropriate for the liturgy of the Mass; instead, he sets only the first ten stanzas, as prescribed when the text is used as a hymn at Vespers. As Deus tuorum militum, RV 612, makes plain, the normal way of setting hymns was to repeat the same music for successive verses. Perhaps the Stabat mater text was too long for a purely strophic setting to be contemplated, or perhaps Vivaldi's ambition and imagination did not permit this. At any rate, the result is a fascinating and unique mixture of the strophic approach (the music for movements 1 to 3 being repeated for movements 4 to 6) and the through-composed approach normal in Psalms.

Moving and expertly written though RV 621 is, it betrays the hand of a composer still much more experienced at writing for instruments than for voices. Within each movement, the musical motifs tend to be developed autonomously in a manner that would later be called "symphonic", irrespective of the changing images and emphases in the words. The breath of L'estro armonico, Op.3 (1711), Vivaldi's first published collection of concertos, is clearly felt. On occasion, however, Vivaldi achieves spectacular effects of word-painting – notably in the seventh movement, "Eia mater", where jagged rhythms express, almost as in a Bach Passion, the scourging of Jesus. The mood is solemn and tragic throughout; Vivaldi restricts himself to the two keys of F minor and C minor, and the tempo moves between moderately slow and extremely slow in a manner prescient of Haydn's Seven Last Words from the Cross or Shostakovich's String Quartet No.15.

Source: Michael Talbot, 1999

First publication: January 2, 2017 – Last update: September 25, 2018

More photos

See also

Under The Shadow – Carlos Mena, Ghalmia Senouci, Disfonik Orchestra, Jacques Beaud (Audio video)

Domenico Scarlatti: Salve Regina in A major – Carlos Mena, Ensemble 415, Chiara Banchini

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 35 – Carlos Mena, Musica Aeterna

Antonio Vivaldi: Stabat Mater – Carlos Mena, Ensemble 415, Chiara Banchini

Antonio Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, & Nisi Dominus – Tim Mead, Les Accents, Thibault Noally

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