Scholl & Vivaldi A Perfect Match

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Sometime you may want to just sit back and listen to a concert performance of music more or less predictable but of a certain quality and cleverness and sufficiently entertaining (Vivaldi, of course!) to satisfy either focused or more casual attention, presented in a program well chosen to engage a seated, paying audience. Whatever you think of Vivaldi, he was a highly competent and skilled master of style (Bach certainly thought so), and most composers would love to have a couple of pieces along the lines of The Four Seasons or Gloria guaranteed to draw in a significant audience, who would then get to listen to some of their other works—like a concerto grosso, or a motet for solo voice.

And sure enough, we have the famous Gloria to end the concert—another smart programming move—before which we enjoy, yes a concerto grosso, plus a few smaller, lesser-known pieces along with another “hit”, a showpiece for alto voice, the Stabat Mater. And for me, the real draw here is countertenor Andreas Scholl. Not having heard him either in concert or on disc for several years, and because he has always been on my list of the world’s top two or three countertenors, I was curious to hear how he’s doing—this performance was recorded in April, 2017, an Easter concert at a church in Lower Austria. The answer is: he’s doing very well. In fact, if you compare his performance of the Stabat Mater from a late-1990s recording on Harmonia Mundi with this one, vocally it’s hard to tell the difference (the overall sound on the present disc is slightly more full and present). All the same attributes I mentioned in several reviews of Scholl’s singing more than 10 years ago (see reviews archive) are still very much alive and equally impressive: the same pure, unforced, natural vocal quality; the consummate musicianship and interpretive instincts—including his masterful phrasing and use of color. It’s all there, and if you haven’t heard it, you should.

It’s also nice to hear his rendition of the motet Filiae Maestae Jerusalem RV 638. Captivating, entrancing–either description will suffice. And we also are sure to be equally captivated and entranced—or perhaps energized is more appropriate—by the Lauda Jerusalem RV 609, Vivaldi’s exciting and vigorous setting of Psalm 147 for double choir and two soprano soloists. The soloists are excellent, and the choir and orchestra as spirited and articulate as we could wish for. The Gloria is, well, the Gloria. It’s not a bad piece; in fact, it’s a fine work that simply suffers from overwork. It’s impossible to hear it fresh when you’ve heard it a million times and you know every note. But still, this is a very good–again, spirited–performance, with the same first-rate soloists and top-notch choir and orchestra. My only complaint here is the choir’s slightly shaky intonation in a few spots (such as the Et in terra pax)—but this is what can happen in a concert performance and it’s only temporary. Oh, and the producers of the recording couldn’t resist including some applause at the end.

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Recording Details:

    Concerto in G minor RV 156; Sonata a quatro in E-flat "Al Santo Sepolcro" RV 130; Filiae Maestae Jerusalem--Introduzione al Miserere RV 638; Stabat Mater RV 621; Lauda Jerusalem RV 609; Gloria RV 589
  • Hanna Herfurtner, Joowon Chung (soprano); Andreas Scholl (countertenor)
  • Salzburger Bachchor, Bach Consort Wien, Rubén Dubrovsky

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