VIVALDI: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III

This disc combines three cantatas for mezzo-soprano with concerti for wind instruments and small accompanying ens. The match-up is interesting, since Laura Polverelliís voice has a richness that resonates well with the baroque winds that are featured in the ìconcerti da cameraî. In other ways the combination is incongruous; the concerti are oriented around the fascinating interplay between the different sonorities of the various soloists (recorder and oboe; flute, oboe, bassoon; recorder, oboe, bassoon) while the cantatas are relatively monochromatic (even though two of them have obbligato strings, these are entirely subsidiary to the vocalist).
Polverelliís biography in the CD booklet lists a number of roles in baroque stage and sacred music, but her strengths are clearly in Rossini and Mozart operatic roles, and this comes across quite clearly: the ornamentation in the da capo sections of the arias is vaguely Rossinian ñ which is initially disconcerting, but ultimately interesting if one is willing to suspend a little bit of stylistic disbelief. After all, Vivaldi always aimed at showing off his singersí abilities, and Polverelliís ornamentation chops clearly lie in the graceful agility of the turn-of-the-nineteenth-century coloratura world ñ so why not take expressive advantage of this strength? This approach in general characterizes the recordings in the ìVivaldi editionî, and while some might see it as an anachronistic flaw, this reviewer is impressed enough with the richness and expressive flair of Polverelliís delivery to go along with the rationale. Polverelliís skill with the arias, however, does not translate quite as well in the recitatives, which seem alternately over-dramatized and hurried and ìletís-get-this-over-withî-ish. This is not a fatal flaw, since very few performers seem to know exactly what to do with Vivaldian recitative; but it is more noticeable in the conciseness of a cantata than it would be in the grander sweep of an operatic performance.
The concerti are remarkable partly because they are clearly interpreted as chamber pieces; each element of the texture is subtly woven in, and even the basso continuo is performed as an equal participant. One of the featured works is a chamber version of the ìtempesta di mareî (which exists in several versions with varying scorings); most listeners are likely to be more familiar with the version for larger ensemble including full strings. LíAstrÈe manages to make this work a tempest in a teapot, in the best possible sense of the word: intimate, and yet intense, and evocative of a very different ìtempestî ñ a more internal one ñ than performances of the larger scoring tend to conjure up. The ensemble is very well balanced, and the combination of harpsichord and theorbo for the continuo is subtle and varied.
This is not a recording that will change anyoneís mind about Vivaldi, nor does it present entirely new and uncharted musical territory; rather, itís another fine pearl in the increasingly longer string with which the Vivaldi Edition is showcasing the extraordinarily versatility of the Red Priest.
Andrew DellíAntonio
The University of Texas at Austin

image_description=Antonio Vivaldi: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III;
product_title=Antonio Vivaldi: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III
product_by= Laura Polverelli, mezzosoprano; LíAstrÈe, Giorgio Tabacco (dir.)
product_id=NaÔve OP 30381 [CD]