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GRAMOPHONE (01/2022)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

Twenty-one years and nearly 60 releases in, and still there are new series to open up in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition. This album inaugurates ‘Cantatas for Soprano’, which at this rate should run to maybe three further instalments. Yes, that’ll be 22 cantatas of lightly nuanced Arcadian loving, for a single voice with only continuo for accompaniment, by a composer who in more than one area of his vocal output showed himself less than fussy about how well an aria might fit its expressive purpose. Yet Vivaldi seems to have been pleasantly inspired by these slender texts, his head evidently filling with ideas for how to realise them in music both attractive and subtly effective. Want to hear a rippling brooklet disturb a hapless lover’s thoughts? Try the restless cello line in RV652. A lover suffering torment at the cruel mockery of his desired one? Listen to the wonderful RV667, with its powerful opening recitative and tragic first aria, rent by vertiginous leaps from top to bottom of the range. On a happier note, how infectious is the delightful warbling in the woodland landscape of RV669, or the feather-light butterfly music of RV660? Conventional Baroque descriptive devices all, but used by Vivaldi with all the endearing personality of The Four Seasons or La notte.

To be fair, a good deal of the music’s vitality here comes from the performances, which treat it with respect, imagination and skill. Arianna Vendittelli is a singer whose stage experience shows in her natural authority of projection and expression; her words are not the clearest, but she copes well with the difficult rage aria of RV667 and her voice really lights up in high register. Meanwhile the Abchordis Ensemble get on with the business of bringing the accompaniments to life with a well-varied instrumentarium of harpsichord, organ, cello, lute and bassoon, all of whom seem to be playing the text no less than Vendittelli is singing it. The harpsichord adds its own meandering tinkle to RV660, and the bassoon is a perfect bosky addition to RV669. Also impressive is the way they use connecting material and well-timed little overlaps to turn the music’s formal junctions into moments of pressing momentum, rather than letting them fall flat. Delightful stuff.

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