Anyone familiar with Vivaldi only through his innumerable concertos (which are, unjustly, often accused of sounding alike) will be surprised by this recording. Vivaldi, in fact, composed a lot of vocal music, both sacred and secular, and wrote for voices no less skilfully than for instruments. The three works presented here, for alto, solo strings and organ, are utterly beautiful and completely different in character, mood and feeling.
The "Stabat Mater" is most substantial. Alternating recitatives and arias, often framed by instrumental ritornellos, it is heartbreakingly mournful, but ends peacefully before closing with a whole aria on "Amen". The other two works are real bravura pieces for the singer. They cover an enormous range and are full of florid coloratura passages and wide leaps. "Nisi Dominus" is very dramatic, with mysterious chromatic lines and big climaxes; "Longe mala" goes from defiant vehemence through fervent entreaty to serene resignation.
The performances are fabulous. David Daniels's voice has a pure, unearthly beauty and is perfectly even in quality across a huge range. Every note is meticulously placed and in tune, his breath control is incredible, his stylistic and emotional identification with the music complete. The musicians of Europa Galante support him splendidly, not as an accompanying group, but as true partners, playing with a lovely sound, imaginative ornamentation, and great expressiveness. The record's only flaw is that Daniels's breathing is clearly audible; he must have stood too close to the microphone. --Edith Eisler