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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Gloria in D Major, RV589 [27:17]
Nisi Dominus, RV 608 [18:24]
Nulla in mundo pax sincera, RV 630 [13:16]
Julia Lezhneva (soprano)
Franco Fagioli (counter tenor)
I Barocchisti and Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera/Diego Fasolis
rec. 2016, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano-Besso, Switzerland
Texts and translations included
DECCA 483 3874 [59:16]

Another week, another Gloria. This one is directed by the man who could energise a snail, Diego Fasolis, and features his band, I Barocchisti. The result is a performance that remains more vital and intense orchestrally than chorally, from the strongly sculpted dynamics of its opening - with associated very slightly exaggerated pauses - to the very end. There’s considerable flair and tonal warmth in the orchestra and individual contributions are strongly etched and invariably exciting or deft, not least the winds and the discreet use of organ. The tempi are well chosen and never sound rushed; thus phrasing sounds natural. The two soloists are soprano Julia Lezhneva and counter tenor Franco Fagioli. They manage to blend together well in Laudamus te but of the two it’s Lezhneva whose vocal production is the more apt. Shadowed by the oboe of Pier Luigi Fabretti she sings with clarity and directness in the Rex caelestis whilst Fagioli, magnificent stage animal though he is, sounds just rather too matronly in his florid singing of the Agnus Dei: the disparity of the voices in isolation is a slight demerit, Fagioli’s Qui sedes taking the work into an operatic direction never suggested by the church-based performance of the soprano.

Still, each singer has an opportunity to reprise their own musical personality in the two well-known solo works. Fagioli sings Nisi Dominus which perhaps is a more appropriate vehicle for his florid, extrovert musicianship. Taut, rich and resonant he employs all his stagecraft in putting across a work that, in any case, doesn’t require too much prompting. The strong orchestral bass line gives him the necessary springboard, Fasolis on hand to generate buoyant rhythm. Cum dederit is sensitively phrased, Sicut sagittae driving and vehement and concertmaster Fiorenza De Donatis plays splendidly in the concertante opportunities afforded during Gloria Patri, et Filio.

Lezhneva’s pure-toned and focused vocalism makes a fine impression in Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera. She employs more vibrato than in Emma Kirkby’s famously ascetic approach in this work decades ago, but never too much. Here, too, orchestral obbligati are full of character – cello, theorbo and others – and the soprano’s coloratura is put to the test in the concluding Alleluia; needless to say, she is up to all demands. Well-sprung and youthful this performance makes a very different impression, once again, to Fagioli’s listen-to-me dynamism.

With a fine recording and good documentation this is a strong entrant in a very crowded field. If you admire what I Barocchisti and Fasolis do, not least with discreet ornamentations, and enjoy very different soloistic approaches, this is an attractive proposition.

Jonathan Woolf


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