VIVALDI Les Orphelines de Venise
For aeons Andrew Parrott’s version (Virgin, 1/95) was the only noteworthy recording of Vivaldi’s popular Gloria (RV589) that used an all-female choir. Hot on the heels of Hervé Niquet’s spirited but eccentric interpretation (Alpha, 12/15 – at incredible speeds, and solo numbers allocated to massed ladies’ voices) is this fresh reinterpretation by Geoffroy Jourdain and Les Cris de Paris.
Sometimes the tenor parts are transposed up an octave so that they function as high soprano parts; Jourdain cites evidence for this practice in different sources of a Miserere by Hasse composed for the women at the Ospedale degli Incurabili. The Kyrie in G minor (RV587) has a sonorous depth and solemnity on account of the bold lower strings and prominent organ, and all-female choral textures are fulsome and theatrical in tone, with the petition ‘Christe eleison’ possessing desperate urgency. The Credo in E minor (RV591) sounds overly effortful but the singers lack nothing in textural richness and impact. The unpersuasively manic speed of the trumpet-festooned opening of the Gloria typifies a tendency to sacrifice radiance in pursuit of high-octane energy. The high upward transposition of the tenor lines in ‘Et in terra pax’ scintillates the ear, although its effectiveness is diminished by over-active plucking from two theorbos; nevertheless, Jourdain embraces dissonances that most performances shy away from in a way that offers an enthralling illumination of Vivaldi’s skill as a choral composer. Solo numbers are sung by talented members of the choir.
It is a clever idea to use the Concerto madrigalesco (RV129) to introduce the Magnificat in G minor (RV610a), with which it shares thematic material. Brooding atmospheres in the canticle (‘Suscepit Israel’) are more convincing than turbulent animation (a hard-edged ‘Fecit potentiam’). A selection from various concertos, solo motets and miscellaneous pieces written for the Pietà might have provided a more rounded and rewarding perspective, so the perfect concept album devoted to Vivaldi’s foundlings still waits to be made.