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Briefly Noted: Nisi Dominus (CD of the Month)

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Vivaldi, Nisi Dominus, Eva Zaïcik, Le Poème Harmonique, Vincent Dumestre

(released on September 9, 2022)
Alpha 724 | 58'31"
The idea of this charming new disc, from Vincent Dumestre and the early music ensemble Le Poème Harmonique, is quite simple. It is anchored on two of Vivaldi's motets, Nisi Dominus and Invicti bellate, substantial works composed for the Visitation, July 2, 1716, an important feast for the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. What Dumestre has programmed with it, however, is much more rare and striking.

The concert opens with O vergin santa, the first of two laude spirituali by Serafino Razzi (1531-1613), a Dominican friar from Florence. Mezzo-soprano Eva Zaïcik and soprano Déborah Cachet divide the piece between them, joined in cantillation by florid improvisations from violinist Fiona Poupard. These pieces are in the same popular vein as "Giesù diletto sposo," by Francisco Soto de Langa (1534-1619), a Spanish-born castrato and composer employed by the papal chapel, who was among the musicians hosted by the Congregation of the Oratory, established by followers of St. Filippo Neri.

Zaïcik takes the two Vivaldi motets, her richly resonant voice freely elaborating the opening solo melismas of Invicti bellate, aptly recalling the laude spirituali. The heart of this poignant work is the slow movement, a prayer for the assistance of Christ in the strain of battle. Dumestre and his musicians accompany this and the longer Nisi Dominus with limpid clarity, especially touching in movements featuring the ensemble's bevy of plucked instruments (theorbo, guitar, colascione). A trio of male voices supports the treble voices in the polyphonic laude. Le Poème Harmonique contributes two strictly instrumental works made for sacred contexts: Vivaldi's Sinfonia in B Minor ("Al Santo Sepolcro") and Locatelli's Sinfonia funebre, composed for his own wife's funeral.

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