English countertenor Tim Mead sings Antonio Vivaldi's "Stabat Mater", RV 621, and "Nisi dominus", RV 608. French ensemble Les Accents conducted by Thibault Noally. Recorded at Sainte-Chapelle de Paris on June 29, 2017.
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
♪ Nisi dominus, RV 608 (c. 1717)
i. Nisi Dominus
ii. Vanum est vobis
iv. Cum dederit
v. Sicut sagittae
vi. Beatus vir
vii. Gloria Patri
viii. Sicut erat in principio
Tim Mead, countertenor
Violin & direction: Thibault Noally
Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, June 29, 2017
Counter-tenor Tim Mead (b. 1981, Chelmsford, Essex, England) is praised for his "alluring" and "consistently excellent" interpretations (New York Times). With his "rich, mellifluous sound" (Guardian), he is recognised as one of the finest across the generations of countertenors.
Highlights of the 2017-2018 season include his debut at the Opéra National de Paris as Hamor in Handel Jephtha, a return to English National Opera as Bertarido in Handel Rodelinda, and to the Bayerische Staatsoper as Endimione in Cavalli La Calisto. In concert Mead will sing a Vivaldi programme with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, Bach cantatas with the Netherlands Bach Society, Pergolesi Stabat Mater with the Academy of Ancient Music, and Bach St John Passion at the BBC Proms.
Recent operatic highlights include Oberon in Britten A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Bergen National Opera, the title role in Philip Glass's Akhnaten and Ottone in Handel Agrippina at Opera Vlaanderen, a reprisal of the role of Boy/Angel in George Benjamin's Written on Skin at the Bolshoi; the leading role in Theater Basel's "Melancholia" both in Basel and at the Holland Festival, and the title role Riccardo Primo at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Arsamene in Cavalli Xerse with Le Concert d'Astrée at Opéra de Lille, Theater an der Wien, and Theatre de Caen. Previous highlights include Goffredo and Eustazio Rinaldo at Glyndebourne, Endimione La Calisto at Bayerische Staatsoper, Voice of Apollo in Deborah Warner’s production of Death in Venice at English National Opera and De Nederlandse Opera, Angel/Boy in George Benjamin's Written on Skin at Théâtre du Capitole Toulouse, Gulbenkian, on tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and in the U.S. premiere at Lincoln Center, and Tolomeo Julius Caesar at English National Opera and Deutsche Oper am Rhein. Other operatic highlights include Ottone L'incoronazione di Poppea at ENO, Opéra de Lyon, Opéra de Lille; title role Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne, title role Orlando at Scottish Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, Clearte Niobe and the world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur for the Royal Opera House, title role Admeto at International Händel Festspiele Göttingen and the Edinburgh International Festival, Ottone Agrippina in Lille and Dijon, and in concert the title role in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice with the Akademie für Alte Musik.
On the concert platform Tim Mead has sung Messiah with the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, Le Concert d'’Astree, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, Accademia Bizantina and Concerto Köln, Bach Christmas Oratorio with Les Arts Florissants, Bach Magnificat with Le Concert d'Astree, Bach St Matthew Passion with London Handel Festival and De Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Bach B Minor Mass with Arcangelo, Bach cantatas with Ensemble Pygmalion, Handel Theodora with the English Concert, Handel Solomon with Akademie für Alte Musik, Handel Judas Maccabaeus with the OAE, Handel Saul with the Dresdner Barockorchester, Handel Joseph and his Brethren at the International Händel Festspiele Göttingen, Handel Semele with the Handel and Haydn Society, Boston and the CBSO, Handel Susanna with the Early Opera Company, Handel Esther with the Dunedin Consort and Dusapin La Melancholia with the SWR Sinfonieorchester. He has worked with such leading conductors as Ivor Bolton, John Butt, William Christie, Harry Christophers, Laurence Cummings, Christian Curnyn, Alan Curtis, Ottavio Dantone, Gustavo Dudamel, Richard Egarr, Jane Glover, Paul Goodwin, Emmanuelle Haïm, Jakub Hrusa, Vladimir Jurowski, Raymond Leppard, Paul McCreesh, Nicholas McGegan, Marc Minkowski, Antonio Pappano, Raphaël Pichon and Masaaki Suzuki. He has also given song recitals at the Wigmore Hall alongside pianist James Baillieu, for Les Grandes Voix in Paris with L'Arpeggiata and Christina Pluhar and at the Teatro Argentina, Rome.
Mead's already substantial discography includes Bach St Matthew Passion and B Minor Mass, the Handel oratorios Messiah, Saul, Solomon, Israel in Egypt, and The Triumph of Time and Truth, the Handel operas Admeto, Flavio, Riccardo Primo and Rinaldo, and Monteverdi L'incoronazione di Poppea and an album featuring Bach cantatas for solo alto and Pergolesi Stabat Mater. He has recorded for EMI Classics, Erato, Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, Opus Arte, Chandos, Linn Records amongst others.
Mead read Music as a choral scholar at King's College, Cambridge, before winning a number of scholarships to continue his vocal studies at the Royal College of Music. Tim Mead is represented by Intermusica.
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
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
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