VIVALDI Gloria (Fasolis)
If this is a Vivaldi sacred ‘pops’ programme, then it’s a neat one: the evergreen Gloria, followed by spotlight motets for each of its two soloists, both works that have made themselves loved in the modern-day Vivaldi world. Nisi Dominus has attracted big-name countertenors from Bowman onwards, with all the variety of sound and approach that implies. Franco Fagioli’s voice is dark, firm and possessed of the skill to make each note etched and precise. The powerful richness of his lower register and ring of the upper, plus a natural ease with vibrato, puts one in mind of a contralto, so that I was drawn to compare his recording with Nathalie Stutzmann’s glowing version with The King’s Consort (Hyperion, 1/01), from which it emerges that while Fagioli brings an operatic thrill to the piece, the more relaxed Stutzmann captures more of its hazy Venetian exoticism, especially in the unforgettably atmospheric ‘Cum dederit’. Meanwhile Nulla in mundo pax sincera, first made famous for us by the silvery grace of the 26-year-old Emma Kirkby, allows the 27-year-old Julia Lezhneva to show off her own pure and vibrato-less technique, swoopy and fluttery at times but with an underlying solidity and agility that enables feathery extra ornaments and Bartoli-like ‘machine trills’.
In both of these pieces the playing from I Barocchisti is busy and alert, as it always is under Diego Fasolis, a conductor who rarely fails to blow away a few cobwebs. Though the choral sound in the Gloria is a little bland, the tempos are brisk and the orchestra bold and bright. There are plenty of ideas too, from embellished instrumentals to the foregrounding of certain details in the string-writing that you won’t hear elsewhere. Mind you, it doesn’t always pay to get too clever with this piece, whose simplicity is surely part of its charm. I could certainly do without the short-note ‘mi-se-re-re’ in the ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’ and the long-held final chord of the ‘Amen’ with (eeugh!) added a cappella ‘nnn’.