Wednesday 27 February 2013

A Tale of Two Seasons with La Serenissima

La Serenissima
Last night, 26 February, we attended a private recital by La Serenissima, directed by violinist Adrian Chandler. It was a fund-raiser for their new CD, A Tale of Two Seasons which they are recording next month. The concert featured their current concert programme, which includes music from the CD performed with mezzo-soprano Sally Bruce-Payne. The programme concentrates on two seasons, 1717 and 1733, when Vivaldi was working at the Teatro San Angelo in Venice. The opera performances included Vivaldi (and sometimes his pupil the Saxon virtuoso Georg Pisendel) performing a concerto during the entracte. This meant that La Serenissima were able to mix operatic arias with concertos, and as the 1717 season included Vivaldi's concerto Il Grosso Mogul that meant that we had some fireworks.

They opened with a brilliant performance of the Sinfonia from Vivaldi's opera L'Incoronazione di Dario which was premiered during the 1717 season. The group make a lively, joyful noise with some beautifully crisp playing which brings out the infectious nature of Vivaldi's writing. Sally Bruce-Payne then joined them to sing a pair of contrasting arias from the opera, Ferri, ceppi, sangue, morte and Sentiro fra ramo. Vivaldi's arias, their accompaniments often vividly toe-tapping , tend to work well excerpted from the complete operas, especially when given in performances as vivacious as here. Frequently the arias live in a similar world to Vivaldi's concertos, with richly satisfying accompaniments and almost instrumental writing for the voice.

The first part of the programme concluded with Vivaldi's concerto  Il Grosso Mogul, which was probably played by Vivaldi in the entracte of Giovanni Porta's opera Il Gran Mogul which was performed in Venice in 1717. It is an amazing work, with two huge cadenzas, a positive thicket of notes all finely played by Adrian Chandler. The slow movement is an almost operatic recitative. But Vivaldi does not neglect the ensemble, and they were able to contribute some striking ritornelli. The group included some 15 players, all clearly highly communicative, creating a fine ensemble.

For the second half, we moved to 1733, where the older Vivaldi had simplified his style somewhat, responding to the newer music from the Neapolitan school. Sally Bruce-Payne sang two arias from Motezuma, an opera which premiered in 1733. The manuscript was thought lost, but the majority of it came to light recently in material restored to Berlin after looting during the war. 

The programme finished with Vivaldi's Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in C, RV 191, whose date we can guess because Vivaldi tended to write corrections on bits of manuscript from other works, so we can link them together. It has, perhaps, few notes than Il Grosso Mogul but is no less tricky and brilliant in its way.

A superb evening, with La Serenissima providing sophisticated music making both infectiously joyous and profoundly beautiful. The programme debuts at Turner Sims concert hall in Southampton on March 12, and is repeated at Cadogan Hall on March 14.  Their recording will be coming out on Avie Records.

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