Antonio Vivaldi's music has generally not been divided into the periods of early, middle, and late that seem so appropriate in the output of other composers and allow listeners to draw parallels with their own life experiences. This is partly because much of his music has been discovered only recently, or is still being discovered and premiered; his works have been assembled from manuscripts scattered around southern Europe, and putting definite dates to many of them is the kind of thing that keeps university researchers employed. Further, he wrote the same kind of pieces -- concertos, sacred settings, operas -- over his entire career, and he tended to follow a few large formal outlines (giving rise to the unjust charge that instead of writing 500 concertos he wrote the same concerto 500 times). Nevertheless, just as Bach modernized his style when he encountered Vivaldi, Vivaldi's style likewise changed in response to new influences from points still farther south. This attractive, rather scholarly Italian release contributes to the evolving chronological understanding of Vivaldi's career. At its center are two settings for chorus, soloists, strings, winds, and continuo of the Dixit Dominus, Psalm 109 (or 110, depending on which way you are coming in), one, RV 595, composed early in Vivaldi's career, probably in the mid-1710s (the science is still inexact), and the other, RV 807, around 1732. There are actually three Vivaldi Dixit Dominus settings, of which the middle one, the Dixit Dominus, RV 594, is not recorded here despite a good deal of commentary in the booklet. Instead the two settings are introduced by related solo cantatas, brightly rendered by sopranos Monique Zanetti and Emanuela Galli. The Dixit Dominus settings aren't sharply dissimilar, with festive outer movements featuring trumpet (and in the case of RV 807 oboes), strings, and full chorus enclosing a set of more or less operatic arias. But, with the help of the detailed booklet notes by Michael Talbot, you can begin to think about the differences. The big one is the final chorus of RV 807, a showy fugue including detailed elaborations over a long-note chromatic melody; the earlier setting also has a contrapuntal finale but of a more modest and by-the-book sort. Casual listeners tend to think of Vivaldi as the melodist, Bach as the contrapuntist, but Vivaldi over time absorbed and elaborated the long tradition of counterpoint that resided in the archives of the institutions that employed him. The arias, too, are similar in conception but differ in detail, with the two "Tecum principium" settings (tracks 7 and 21), for example, relying on big, crowd-pleasing contrasts in the earlier work but subtler, more detailed interweaving lines in the later one. The soloists are uniformly well suited to this kind of Vivaldi vocal music, which demands control over a lot of rapid passagework while restricting the sound to dimensions that don't overwhelm the moderate scale of the music. Combined with precise, rather subdued singing from the small Ensemble Vocale Il Canto di Orfeo and Ensemble Pian & Forte under Francesco Fanna, the result is a disc of a great deal of interest for those who want to know Vivaldi's music in depth. The engineers, working in a substantial church in the city of Pavia, produce a pleasant and spacious sound that at times swallows up the details in the singing of the soprano soloists. Notes are in Italian, French, and English.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Ascende laeta, solo motet for voice, strings & continuo in A major (introduzione to Dixit Dominus), RV 635|
|Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109 "of Prague"), for 5 voices, chorus, trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 cellos, strings & continuo in D, RV 595|
|Canta in Prato, ride in monte (II) solo motet for voice, 2 oboes, strings & continuo in G major, RV 636|
|Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109), for 6 voices, chorus, 2 oboes, trumpet, bassoon, strings & continuo D major, RV 807|