By John Sidgwick
LONDON, 25 March 2005—There is so much to recommend
about this new issue by La Serenissima that I hardly know where to start.
Suffice to say that it is a must for any lover of the music of Vivaldi.
More than that even: it is a must for any lover of music.
Like all productions by Adrian Chandler, the performances are
backed up by prodigious in-depth scholarship. The sleeve notes (in
English, German and French) provide invaluable information on the sources.
Furthermore, the technical notes by Chandler himself and by the excellent
harpsichordist and organist, Robert Howarth, are remarkably rewarding and
deserve careful study. Finally, there is complete information on the
instruments used by the performers, each one of whom is named. In short,
one of the best accompanying documents I have come across. None of the
so-called majors is producing anything like it today.
The programme consists of four concerti for various combinations of
instruments and two sacred works for soprano and strings. I shall deal
with one of each of these.
Vivaldi and virtuosity are intimately connected in the public
perception of "The Red Priest". In the Concerto fatto per la Solennità
della S. Lingua di S. Antonio in Padova, 1712 for violin, strings and
continuo in D, RV 212, Chandler takes us into Everest-like realms of
prodigious performance. Yet at no time, despite the fearful technical
demands of the music, does he ever stray from a beautiful warm tone and
his intonation is impeccable throughout. In his sleeve note, after
describing the rescue of the piece from badly damaged scores, he makes the
following point: "It is also something of a miracle that the cadenzas have
survived complete, the second being of great interest as it takes the
violinist above the end of the fingerboard, thus proving the oft ridiculed
statement of Uffenbach's that 'Vivaldi brought his fingers within a hair's
breadth of the bridge, scarcely leaving room for the bow'".
In Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 112) for soprano,
strings and continuo, RV 600, Mhairi Lawson demonstrates yet again what a
marvelous singer she is. In my view, any singer of any tessitura
should listen to her. In recent years, singers have tried to get louder
and louder and nearly all of them wobble so much that they are frankly
uncomfortable to listen to. Lawson has a gentle, warm vibrato, yet even in
pianissimo, she can be clearly heard at the back of the largest concert
hall. For the simple truth is that she has worked to acquire the values of
another age. Just as the great actors knew how to make themselves heard
without shouting, the great singers were able to project their voices
without forcing the tone. Laudate pueri Dominum consists of ten
movements of varying moods, illustrating the sentiments of the various
verses of the psalm. Lawson meets the demands of the music superbly at
every moment, contemplative when necessary, yet explosive and accurate
almost beyond belief in her coloratura. Moreover, she constantly lends the
music a special impetus all of her own, carrying it along in such a way
that it never flags for an instant.
I can only repeat what I said at the beginning of this article.
This disk is a must for any lover of music.
Antonio Vivaldi: Music for the Chapel of the Pietà
Music & Sacred Concerti
Adrian Chandler, director/violin
Sarah McMahon, cello solo
Recorded at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin,
Salehurst, East Sussex, England, 22–24 Nov 2004
Avie Records: AV 2063
John Sidgwick writes about classical music in Britain and
France for Culturekiosque.com.