Notes and Editorial Reviews
VENICE BY NIGHT
Adrian Chandler,cond; Mhairi Lawson (sop); Simon Murray (tpt); Peter Whelan (bn); La Serenissima (period instruments)
AVIE 2257 (79:47)
ANONYMOUS, ALBINONI, LOTTI, POLLAROLO, PORTA, VERACINI, VIVALDI
It is hard to know where to start with this compilation disc, the 10th that the period ensemble La Serenissima has produced with Avie. For one, I received an advanced promotional copy that didn’t seem to want to play on my usual
equipment, though it did on my computer, so the full effect of the disc could not be entirely felt (though I do have very fine speakers for my equipment). I do not know why that was the case, but it also would not play on the equipment of friends and colleagues. Nonetheless, coming on the heels of their release of the Vivaldi concertos I just reviewed, there was some considerable anticipation on this continuation of La Serenissima’s penchant for revivals of this late Baroque music.
What one encounters is a musical journey punctuated by gondolier songs, a sort of easy rowed musical excursion that evokes the canals and atmosphere of Venice, perhaps an immersion into a Canaletto painting, figuratively speaking. The program, though, is somewhat eclectic, consisting of a plethora of vocal and instrumental works that, despite the songs, have really no connection whatsoever apart from the fact that they were in or for Venice. As a result there is no real thread that might explain why they were chosen. Of course, the focus is Antonio Vivaldi, represented by a bassoon concerto (RV 477), which is replete with tortuous virtuosity for the instrument, aptly played with considerable skill and ease by Peter Whelan; a violin concerto (RV 278) that seems to evoke one of the
in its skirling themes; and two arias from his operas
originally written for Marianino Nicolini. The last are handled with ease by mezzo-soprano Mhairi Lawson, although her vibrato sometimes tends to make her pitch a bit wobbly. I particularly like the clarion “D’ira e furore” with its almost Handelian trumpet solo. She also does the gondolier songs and a lovely motet,
Alma ride exulta,
written by Antonio Lotti (c.1667–1740). This work is quite conservative, but she allows her voice to float gracefully above the strings (and in the second aria, the continuo), making the simple coloratura seem effortless. There is a wonderful exuberance to the final alleluia, which moves right along trippingly in compound meter. Vivaldi’s colleague Tomaso Albinoni is represented by the sinfonia to his oratorio
Il nome glorioso
and a brief G-Minor symphony, both of which have been recorded a number of times, but here there is nice attention to dynamic contrasts, particularly in the former, where the strings have a rather Vivaldian theme before the trumpet enters. The final movement is a nice gigue, almost militaristic in its fanfare-like theme and rolling triplets. A brief fugue for strings by Francesco Veracini is included, and though a premiere, it seems rather commonplace, with no really gnarly counterpoint. Of the two remaining composers, the sinfonia to the opera
La vendetta d’amore
was written for Rovigo by Carol Pollarolo (c.1653–1723), Vivaldi’s colleague at the Ospedale degli incurabili, and the symphony for trumpet and strings by Giovanni Porta (c.1690–1755), which was apparently imported from Naples. Both are highly conventional works, stylized Baroque pieces that nonetheless have a formal structure and contrasting themes reminiscent of the Neapolitan opera style of the period.
The standard of performance is extremely good, with an excellent sense of tempo and intonation. Adrian Chandler truly has a good grasp of the style. No doubt this grouping will appeal to a particular audience who will find such diverse programming entertaining. And it is good to have recordings of the Pollarolo, Porta, Lotti, and Veracini, for unless there is a disc focused on their music, it seems a long shot that these works will be repeated anytime soon. Lotti’s many motets, on the other hand, deserve more exposure, and hopefully this disc will encourage ensembles to explore his music a bit deeper.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Sinfonia in D major by Porta,
Simon Munday (Trumpet)
Si la gondola averè by Anonymous
Written: by 1742; Venice, Italy
Featured Sound Samples
La vendetta d'amore: Sinfonia (Pollarolo): I. Allegro assai
Sinfonia no 3 for Strings and Basso Continuo in G minor, Si 7 (Albinoni): III. Allegro
Fuga, o capriccio con quattro soggetti in D (Veracini)
Part III: Chorus: "Singt dem Herrn alle Stimmen"
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