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Revisiting Sara Mingardo's Vivaldi

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Vivaldi, Concerti e cantate, Sara Mingardo, Francesca Vicari, Luigi Piovano, Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini
(re-released October 30, 2007)
Having already expressed delight at the mysterious, edgy contralto of Sara Mingardo in Concerto Italiano's Orfeo, I likely surprise no one by waxing rhapsodic over more of her recordings. Jens has already recommended a disc of Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus, featuring La Mingardo and others with the Dresden forces of Peter Kopp (video on YouTube), and this re-release offers the chance to revisit more of her magnificent Vivaldi. Along with five concertos, the meat of the program, are two secular cantatas (RV 683 and 684) that offer sublime vehicles for Mingardo's reedy, dramatic voice, alternately fleet and thick-stroked. Both set Arcadian texts, with shepherd lovers complaining of the unfaithful nymphs Clori and Dorilla. Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, in his concise liner notes, estimates that both were composed at some point after 1726.

These cantatas are somewhat unusual in that Vivaldi notated string parts for them, including the recitatives, and they hold up to repeated, obsessive listening. In particular, two arias stand out for the beauty of the vocal line and the allure of their instrumental ritornelli. The fast Passo di pena in pena (RV 683) evokes a ship being tossed on the wild waves of passion, and the slow, lashing Ah, ch'infelice sempre (RV 684) the hope of death as a release from unrequited love's torments. This disc was originally released in 1997, but the re-release (nothing but the original disc and booklet in a new sleeve) has been reduced in price by a quarter, so it is a good time to add it to your collection if you missed it the first time around. Mingardo's recent solo release, from 2003, was nothing but a collection of previously recorded tracks, and it has only part of one of these Vivaldi cantatas, Cessate, omai cessate, on it.

Vivaldi, "Ah, ch'infelice sempre" (Cessate, omai cessate, RV 684)
Sara Mingardo, Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini

Amor, hai vinto (RV 683)
Recitativo: Amor, hai vinto
Aria: Passo di pena in pena
Recitativo: In che strano e confuso
Aria: Se a me rivolge il ciglio

Cessate, omai cessate (RV 684)
Aria: Nel'orrido albergo

The appeal of this disc is further enhanced by the instrumental selections, including three of the concerti per archi, pieces for strings alone without a prominent solo part: RV 117, 134, and a vivid, rural RV 151, "Alla rustica." From Vivaldi's ground-breaking cello concerti, there is a bubbly performance of RV 422, not one of the concerti recorded on the first volume of Christophe Coin's ongoing complete set with Il Giardino Armonico (reviewed this summer). Luigi Piovino impresses with meaty tone and agile flourishes on the challenging solo part. Violinist Francesca Vicari also has a solo concerto, RV 249, and her sound is as mercurial and steely as it was in the group's remarkable Winter concerto. A most satisfying combination.

Naïve/Opus111 OP 30181

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