Sandrine Piau

Antonio Vivaldi: Opera Arias and Sacred Music

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AllMusic Review by

French soprano Sandrine Piau has been featured regularly on Naïve's exemplary Vivaldi series, and this disc of 18 arias and ensembles from his operas and sacred works have been culled from those previous releases. The album is organized around repertoire that the composer wrote for some of his favorite singers, who had widely diverse temperaments and vocal specialties, so it's a testimony to Piau's versatility that she pulls off these varied selections with such naturalness and panache. Her light, silvery voice is not large, but it has a gleaming purity and her formidably solid technique and effortless-sounding flexibility make her ideal for Vivaldi's outrageously demanding vocal lines. The composer has been criticized for writing for the voice as if it were an instrument, giving his vocal lines about as much thought about breathing as he gave his music for violin. That evaluation may not be entirely fair, but it's easy to see how the difficulty of the vocal lines could create that impression. Piau has the wherewithal not only to negotiate the lines, but to give them graceful shape and invest them with potent emotional substance. The florid virtuosity and agility of which she is capable is on full display in arias like the rapid-fire "Alma oppressa da sorte crudele" from La Fida ninfa, the opera that's the source of some of the most impressive material on the album, and two of the arias from the motet In furore giustissimae irae. She is equally impressive in the slower arias like "Tunc meus fletus," from the same motet, which require limpid, long-breathed, legato phrasing. Some of the most appealing tracks are the ensembles, in which Piau is joined by singers like soprano Verónica Cangemi, mezzo-sopranos Ann Hallenberg and Guillemette Laurens, and counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky. The quartets "Cosi, su gl'occhi miei?" from La Fida ninfa, and "Anima del cor mio," from La Candace, are real standouts. The accompanying forces -- Jean-Christophe Spinosi leading Ensemble Matheus, Federico Maria Sardelli leading Modo Antiquo, and Ottavio Dantone leading Accademia Bizantina -- are all stellar, providing exquisitely lively and sensitive support. The sonic ambience somewhat varies from track to track because of the source recordings, but the sound is never less than excellent, always immaculately clean, and well balanced.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La fida ninfa, RV 714
1 4:53
In Furore iustissimae irae, RV 626
2 4:29
La fida ninfa, RV 714
3 3:23
4 5:50
Laudate Pueri, RV 601
5 4:03
La Candace, RV 704
6 3:42
7 4:01
Atenaide, RV 702-B
8 6:07
La Candace, RV 704
9 4:57
10 5:02
Laudate Pueri, RV 601
11 3:30
La fida ninfa, RV 714
12 2:51
La Silvia, RV 734
13 4:00
Atenaide, RV 702-B
14 3:51
In Furore iustissimae irae, RV 626
15 6:09
16 1:33
Atenaide, RV 702-B
17 4:37
La fida ninfa, RV 714
18 3:19
blue highlight denotes track pick