The work performed was almost certainly Vivaldi’s serenata La Senna festeggiante RV693 (The Seine rejoicing), an occasional
work for three soloists and orchestra which remains a relatively lesser
known piece in Vivaldi’s oeuvre.
Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo gave Vivaldi’s La Senna festeggiante
a rare London outing at the Wigmore Hall on Friday 5 April 2019 with
soloists Em?ke Bar·th (soprano), Anna Reinhold (mezzo-soprano) and Callum
Thorpe (bass). The piece sets a libretto by Domenico Lalli, a Venetian poet
who had supplied the librettos for some of Vivaldi’s operas, and it takes
the personifications of L’Eta dell’Oro (the Golden Age), Virtu (manly
valour) and the Seine. They moan about the state of the world today, are
entertained by the singing and dancing of woodland deities and then, in the
shorter second half, pay homage to ‘the greatest star which is the light of
Gaul’, i.e. the 16 year old Louis.
Vivaldi seems to have supplied music which prized entertainment value above
all, much of the piece is positively toe tapping with strong vibrant
rhythms, and some fine showy arias. It is not the deepest of works, and you
certainly do not have to look at the libretto. But in a performance as
finely engaging as the one from Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo, there is much
enjoyable charm in the music and moments of fine virtuosity. Whilst clearly
Italian in style, Vivaldi paid nods to his hosts with elements of French
music, most notably the way he uses orchestral accompanied recitatives
(something common in French opera) rather than continuo accompanied ones,
and the whole work ends with a grand Coro which is a Chaconne, a movement
beloved of French composers, though the keen eared will detect links to a
movement of Vivaldi’s Gloria too, and indeed the whole work has a
great element of re-use of material, but part of the charm is the way
Vivaldi works it into a finely attractive whole.
We started with a crisp and bouncy Sinfonia, with a jolly bass
part for the bassoon, something Vivaldi repeated in other movements, and a
middle Andante with graceful flutes. Much of the music had the
same delightfully perky bounce to it, with the musicians of Arcangelo
taking great delight in making Vivaldi’s writing vividly engaging.
As L’Eta dell’Oro, soprano Em?ke Bar·th had a lovely rich, focused soprano
voice and a winning way with her, charming us with each entry and dashing
of the ornamental passages with ease. She made the music seem delightful.
Anna Reinhold as Virtu was a more sober performer, with a lovely well
modulated dark-toned voice that we first heard in concert with graceful
flutes. In the second half she had a striking aria where the elaborate
vocal line was accompanied by a ‘bass line’ of just violins and
harpsichord. Throughout, I was struck by the imagination which Vivaldi
brought to the scoring.
As the embodiment of the river Seine, Callum Thorpe was suitably resonant
and dark voiced, impressing with the sheer gravity of his sound yet also
complementing the perky bounce of the accompaniment with a beautiful
The three singers came together for the Coro movements, particularly the
delightful dance-inspired ending of part one and the chaconne at the end of
the work where all concerned were clearly having great fun. So much so,
that we were treated to an encore of the movement!
There was a great deal going on in London on 5 April 2019, not least of
which was the performance of Semele by Vivaldi’s great
contemporary Handel at the Barbican. But for those interested in exploring
some of the byways of the Baroque world, Jonathan Cohen, Arcangelo and the
team gave us wonderful engaging account of a work which, whilst neither
deep nor philosophical, certainly delighted and charmed.
Vivaldi: La Senna festeggiante RV693
Em?ke Bar·th (soprano), Anna Reinhold (mezzo-soprano), Callum Thorpe
(bass), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
Wigmore Hall, London; 5th April 2019
product_title=Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo at Wigmore Hall
product_by=A review by Robert Hugill
product_id=Above: Em?ke Bar·th
Photo credit: Zsofi Raffay