Memorable Vivaldi and Pergolesi

19/04/2014

 Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Roberta Invernezzi (soprano), Sonia Prina (contralto), The English Concert, Bernard Labadie (director). Wigmore Hall, London, 17.04.2014 (CC)

VivaldiSinfonia al Santo Sepolcro, RV169.
Stabat Mater, RV621
PergolesiSalve Regina.
Stabat Mater

 

The programming of the Vivaldi Sinfonia al Santo Seplcro to open this concert was a stroke of genius: it begins as far away from the archetype of Vivaldi’s music as one can imagine, slowly creeping its way into our consciousness, its harmonies strange and otherwordly – this latter aspect emphasised by the vibrato-free playing. Disembodied and dissonant, even the promise of the allegro is delayed – less teasingly, more tragically, as if the music’s own sense of mourning forbids further forward movement. The brief Allegro ma poco‘s lachrymose sighing gestures set the tone for the rest of the concert. Pergolesi’s Salve Regina for soprano was delivered with beautifully light tone shot through with heartfelt sincerity by Roberta Invernizzi. The nature of the text, and Pergolesi’s tissue-delicate response to it in terms of scoring, was perfectly honoured.

Little could have prepared one for the excellence of contralto Sonia Prina, who was featured in Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater: a shorter setting, it sets about half the text of Pergolesi’s. Here, the vibrato-less playing of the strings seemed to underline the anguish of which the text speaks. Sonia Prina has a beautifully developed voice, fully in bloom; and her delivery is perfectly stylish. Prina’s breath control is fabulous. Her agility was just as remarkable in the final, brief “Amen”. Glyndebourne afficionados might know her from Handel’s Rinaldo, but apart from this her UK appearances seem to have been rather few in comparison with her mainland European ones. It is to be hoped this concert marked a sea-change in our fortunes.

Pergolesi’s well-known Stabat Mater, well-served in the record catalogues, followed on after the interval. Here, the use of two voices (soprano and contralto) was beautifully effective. The playing of the English Concert, so revelatory and of such a consistently high standard in the first half, was if anything even more special here; the music seemed bathed in a halo. The glorious chain of suspensions that opened the work was magnificent, both in the string statement and from the vocal soloists. Perhaps Invernizzi’s diction at the “Cujus animam” was a trifle obscured, but that really is the only concrete criticism this reviewer can offer. Perhaps most powerful was the “Fac me vere”, with its staccato strings against the legato vocal line, and the Handelian grandeur of the opening of “Fac ut portem”. But it is so difficult to single out single passages, or movements, in a reading that was so consistent, and so convincing, throughout. Bernard Labadie’s conception seemed perfectly thought-through, for this as well as each and every piece on the programme. A most memorable concert.

Colin Clarke

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