VIVALDI Sarai qual padre mio. Abbia respire il cor. Perché lacero il foglio. La verità in cimento: Se vincer non si può. Mi vuoi trader lo so. Scanderbeg: Con palme ed allori. S’a voi penso, a puci belle. Teuzzone: Per lacerarlo. Vedi le mie catene. Alma mia fra tanti affanni. Tito manlio: Tu dormi in tante pene. Orlando furioso: Parta il sol del tuo sembiante.Read moreConcerto for Strings in F, RV 136. Violin Concerto in B?, RV 369 • Ottavio Dantone (hpd); cond; Sonia Prina (alt); Stefano Montanari (vn); Accademia Bizantina (period instruments) • NAÏVE 30443 (70:26 Text and Translation)
Naïve’s “Vivaldi Edition” continues apace with this spectacular album of formerly forgotten arias and two concertos culled from the archives of the National University Library in Turin. The singer on this program is Milanese contralto Sonia Prina, whose absolutely spectacular voice production, technique, and musicality literally floored me in her DVD version of Rossini’s La pietra del paragone (also on Naïve, reviewed in Fanfare 31:5), but who was less than a standout for me in Alan Curtis’s recording of Conti’s David (Fanfare 31:3). I ascribe that not only to the overall excellence of virtually every singer in the David, but also to the recessed microphone placement that did not give prominence to her voice. Here, of course, she is not just the principal but the only singer, and the mike placement is far more advantageous to her.
Prina’s voice is certainly not as large or powerful as is Marilyn Horne’s, but her technique is equally spectacular and, as a natural contralto, her low range emerges unforced as opposed to Horne’s pushing-down on the low notes to increase projection. Both singers have little interpretive qualities, though in the concert aria “Abbia respire il cor” she reveals a more expressive plaintiveness of tone than Horne was capable of. I make this comparison not to criticize Horne but to explain two small but telling reasons why I personally prefer Prina. And, like Horne, her dramatic fire and forward propulsion in the presto arias are nothing short of astonishing. She can, and does, sing Archiv’s Vivaldi specialist Simone Kermes under a table.
The music itself need not necessarily be described. Those familiar with Vivaldi will find more of the same here as they are used to. Special praise, however, must go to the extraordinary playing of the Accademia Bizantina. Not only do they attack the rapid passages with emotional brio, but in the slow movements of the two concertos included here they play with elegance and a fine legato style that often eludes many of the historically informed groups active today. I can’t and won’t tell you this is an indispensable disc unless your appetite for Vivaldiana is insatiable, but I can say that if you want to hear some lovely and many spectacular arias sung in a way that explains their appeal even today, Sonia Prina and Accademia Bizantina will not disappoint.