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Vivaldi Edition: New Discoveries

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Vivaldi, New Discoveries, R. Basso, Modo Antiquo, F. M. Sardelli

(released on February 24, 2009)
Naïve OP 30480
Like most fans of Baroque music, we have been following the progress of the Vivaldi Edition closely, as more of the works of Antonio Vivaldi are being sought out in archives, catalogued, and recorded on the Naïve label. Most exciting have been the operas, most recently the splendid Atenaide (a review of the just released La fida ninfa is forthcoming), because of the superlative performers enlisted to make the recordings, the flower of the burgeoning HIP movement in Italy. This new disc brings together several small pieces newly discovered and now attributed to Vivaldi through the research of various specialists (all certified by musicologist Michael Talbot, who contributed the liner notes). The performances are entrusted to Modo Antiquo, the ensemble led by Federico Maria Sardelli, with the excellent results one would expect from them. The most enjoyable revelation on this recording is a motet for contralto, Vos invito, discovered in the library of the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi, thought to have been composed for Assisi or for the sister house of the Basilica del Santo in Padua, where Vivaldi was known to have done some work in 1712 and 1713.

To hear it for the first time, we have the striking voice of Romina Basso, heard and much appreciated in the recordings of Atenaide and in Alan Curtis's recording of Motezuma. The narrator of this text, stated in the first person, is an unnamed virgin martyr tortured by fire, wild animals, and armed men. The text does not seem to line up with the life of St. Justina, an early martyr whose remains are in the Basilica at Padua and who is one of that city's patrons, but the three types of suffering are more or less an exact match to the vita of St. Thecla, the disciple of St. Paul who according to her legend was saved from three types of pain and death (being burned at the stake, thrown to savage animals, and raped by a band of ruffians). St. Thecla died in Syria, but she is venerated in the Cathedral of Este, not too far from Padua, where it was widely believed she had saved the city from plague in the 17th century. Just a thought.

Basso's voice is a force of nature in its low range, although in a few of the faster passages of runs she is less than elegant. Other delights include a sonata now identified in two slightly different versions, one for recorder (RV 806) played with daring panache by Sardelli himself and the other for violin (or possibly oboe, RV 810). Basso also sings two other individual secular arias, whose association with a Vivaldi opera, if any, is still being determined. Other instrumental selections include a recently discovered concerto for the unusual solo combination of oboe and cello. Do not be put off by the creepy cover art (who thought that a man in heavy mascara, lipstick, and pencil mustache would sell Vivaldi?) -- this disc is a delightful collection of curiosities, if not an essential purchase, other than for Vivaldi completists, who are surely already "subscribed" to the Vivaldi Edition.


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