Luigi Nono: Fragments of Venice [Vivaldi]

Lauda Jerusalem, RV609
Double Concerto in F, RV584
Salve Regina, RV617
Violin Concerto in D, RV212
Gloria, RV589

Kati Debretzeni (violin)

Joanne Lunn (soprano)

Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 25 October, 2007
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

The last of the non-Nono concerts to be included in the “Luigi Nono: Fragments of Venice” festival was one of music by Vivaldi – not so evident a predecessor, perhaps, as is Monteverdi but whose Venetian connection along with striking technical traits warrant his investigation from a similar perspective.

This is what Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment did in this programme, which opened with two brief but imposing works whose impact is the greater when the performers are positioned – as here – antiphonally. The rhythmic vigour of “Lauda Jerusalem” was abetted by this two-way distribution of choir and orchestra, leaving the continuo as a harmonic bedrock ‘in situ’, while the one-movement Double Concerto left a notably bracing impression with its violins and orchestras incisively exchanging phrases from either gallery as did the two organs (Robert Howarth and Julian Perkins) either side of the platform.

Whether or not Vivaldi expected his music to be heard this way, the skill in co-ordination was impressively carried through.

The full forces then assembled for “Salve Regina” that lays claim to be the most expressive of its composer’s sacred vocal works; certainly when given with the poise of Joanne Lunn, whose plaintiveness in the final ‘Et jesum’ section brought the chaste and sensuous sides of Vivaldi’s music into persuasive accord.

In total contrast, this particular Violin Concerto represents the uninhibited virtuoso – in the bracing energy and contrapuntal resourcefulness of its outer movements and, especially, the stratospheric reaches of the cadenza that emerges from out of its austere ‘Grave’. Playing as well as directing, Pavel Beznosiuk brought the piece off with aplomb.

He was equally in control with the “Gloria” that has long been Vivaldi’s most popular, not to say over-exposed, choral work. Yet a performance so capable reminds one of the sheer variety invested in its ten movements – not least the plangent ‘Et in terra pax’ (in which Vivaldi’s harmonic idiom is hardly less innovative than his rhythmic thinking), the suave soprano-and-oboe duet ‘Domine Deus, rex coelestis’ on which Bach surely modelled movements in his cantatas, and the angular choral writing of ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’. That the closing fugue on ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ is shamelessly ‘borrowed’ from his contemporary Ruggeri matters little when the piece spiritedly and effectively rounds off the whole.

The OAE was on fine form, and a special mention for the all-female Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi – whose timbral inclusiveness sounds scarcely less remarkable today than it can have in Vivaldi’s day. Had Nono combined them with electronic diffusion, the results would surely have been something else.

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