It’s wonderful to come across an album that reminds us why we continue to value so highly both violin virtuosity in general and Vivaldi’s work in particular. Violinists Giuliano Carmignola and Amandine Beyer bring spirited enthusiasm and almost superhuman skills to their duo work with the chamber ensemble Gli Incogniti on Antonio Vivaldi: Concerti per Due Violini, out now from Harmonia Mundi.
The double-concerto form captures Vivaldi’s brilliance in a different way than other formats, in the way he finesses the presentation of one but two featured soloists. It’s a format that suggests and even encourages competition, yet must in the end achieve aesthetic cohesion – not necessarily peace, but always conclusiveness. These works, composed during the 1710s, ’20s, and ’30s, have tempestuous passages and sequences of near-excess, balanced by passages of exquisite and sometimes strange beauty. This recording conveys all of it with earthy beauty and exquisite grace.
Divine Theatre: Sacred Motets by Giaches de Wert from the English a capella choir Stile Antico, also on the Harmonia Mundi label, presents an array of gorgeous music by the 16th-century Flemish-born composer Giaches de Wert. Wert spent his career in Italy, mostly in Mantua, and is known to have influenced his younger contemporary Monteverdi. Otherwise little is known of his biography.
Though better known for his madrigals, Wert also published three collections of dramatic settings of sacred texts and liturgy. In some, he bent the compositional rules of the day in quest of a richer palette with which to convey the meaning of the text. Through the voices and sensibilities of a dedicated ensemble like Stile Antico, they all speak to us today, regardless of whether we feel or even note their religious content, or of how closely they conform to the standards of the day. Rachel’s inconsolable sadness is palpable in the “Vox in Rama audita est.” Polychoral writing deftly depicts Jesus’ dialogue with Saul in “Saule, Saule.” “Ascendente Jesu” is stormily picturesque. That’s the magic of great music, especially when it’s performed with utmost skill. Stile Antico brings brilliantly to life this highly varied selection of Wert’s beautiful motets.