Notes and Editorial Reviews
Vivaldi? Or a group effort? Either way, it makes for an enjoyable experience
Here’s an intriguing mystery. In 2002 French musicologist Olivier Fourés came across the manuscript of this serenata, dated September 18, 1726, in the archives of the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Venice and recognised one of the numbers as an aria known to be by Vivaldi. Was the whole thing by Vivaldi, or was it a pasticcio, the work of several composers?
In his booklet-note, Fourés suggests that Andromeda liberata was written to celebrate the return from Rome of Cardinal Ottoboni, patron of Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, and he claims, not altogether convincingly, to find allusions to the cardinal in the
anonymous libretto. As to the music, he nails his colours to the fence, concluding that ‘even if it is a pasticcio, it was Vivaldi who in general elaborated the piece’. Archiv shows discretion in billing it as by ‘Vivaldi and others’.
What of the piece itself? At the beginning, Perseus has already slain the monster ravaging the countryside and set Andromeda free from the rock to which she has been chained. He is in love with her, but her heart is set on Daliso, a young foreigner who prefers his freedom. The other characters are Andromeda’s mother, Cassiope, and the shepherd Meliso, a spokesman for the Ethiopian people. In the end, Andromeda does the right thing by marrying Perseus. (Fourés sees Perseus as Ottoboni, Andromeda as Venice, and Daliso as the difficulties the banished cardinal had to overcome before returning.)
The serenata, in two parts, consists of the usual chain of recitatives and da capo arias; there are brief contributions by the chorus, and a love duet as the penultimate number. The music is delightful. After the Sinfonia and opening recitative comes a vigorous aria for Meliso (the splendid Anna Bonitatibus) with trumpets and drums, the chorus crying ‘Viva Perseo, viva!’, the triple-time rhythm varied by hemiolas. Andromeda has an aria with cello obbligato in which she expresses her feelings for Daliso, and an arioso, heard twice, where she begs her mother for time to decide. Both are touchingly sung by Simone Kermes. She also opens the second part railing against the fates with a cheerful aria featuring the horns.
This sense of the music belying the words is also to be felt in the aria Perseus sings after his rejection, which trips along in a gigue-like measure. More searching is ‘Sovvente il sole’, a Metastasian metaphor aria with violin obbligato. This is the one known to be by Vivaldi: the rich-toned Max Emanuel Cencic, here and throughout, shows himself to be in the same league as David Daniels and Andreas Scholl.
Andrea Marcon directs with an infectiously joyous brio, guilty only of allowing some over-exuberant vocal decoration. I enjoyed this set enormously: do try it.
-- Richard Lawrence, Gramophone [1/2005]
Works on This Recording
Andromeda Liberata by Antonio Vivaldi
Katerina Beranova (Soprano),
Max Emanuel Cencic (Countertenor),
Simone Kermes (Soprano),
Anna Bonitatibus (Alto),
Mark Tucker (Tenor)
Venice Baroque Orchestra,
La Stagione Armonica
Written: by 1726; Venice, Italy
Notes: The authorship of this work is uncertain. It may be a "pasticcio" by several composers. At least one aria, "Sovvente il sole," has been determined to be by Antonio Vivaldi.
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