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naïve August 2009 preview

Vivaldi Edition – Three New Titles

available August 25, 2009 from naive

“Naive’s Vivaldi Edition has been full of surprises
that can’t help but prompt a positive reappraisal of this ultra-productive

– Philadelphia Inquirer

Vivaldi:  Gloria RV589 and Gloria RV 588; Introduzione:
“Ostro picta, armata spina” RV642

Italiano (choir and orchestra)/Rinaldo Alessandrini

Sara Mingardo, contralto

OP 30485

August 25 from naïve

Conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini returns to the Vivaldi
Edition for the first time since 2004 with an album of glorious sacred music by
the Red Priest.  With the choir and
orchestra of Concerto Italiano, and guest soloist contralto Sara Mingardo,
Alessandrini conducts the celebrated Gloria RV589, along with the much
lesser-known Gloria RV588 and the “Ostro Picta” introduction, which Alessandrini has chosen
to associate with the Gloria RV589. 

Alessandrini notes, “the reason I chose to record both
versions of Vivaldi’s Gloria is because the first is not very well known and the
character of the two is very different. There is much more polyphony in the
first version (RV 588) than in the second (RV 589), which is much more
theatrical, more modern. The first version looks much more to the past.” Alessandrini’s
recording of the composer’s Vespri, also issued in the Vivaldi Edition, won a coveted Gramophone
Award in 2004. 

Sara Mingardo’s previous recording for naïve, also conducted
by Alessandrini, featured Handel duets with soprano Sandrine Piau.  The album was CD of the Month in the
July 2009 issue of Gramophone, which characterized Mingardo as “one of the richest voices
before the public today.” Mingardo will star in an opening-night production of
Monteverdi’s Orfeo
conducted by Alessandrini at Milan’s La Scala (September 19 – October 6).  Alessandrini will return to La Scala in
the next two seasons as well, conducting Monteverdi’s other two surviving
operas:  L’incoronazzione di
(2010) and Il
ritorno d’Ulisse

(2011).  In 2010, Concerto Italiano
will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Vivaldi:  Oboe Concerti


Bernardini, oboe and direction

OP 30478

Available August 25 from naive

Renowned oboist
Alfredo Bernardini and his dazzling baroque ensemble Zefiro perform seven
vibrant and joyous oboe concertos by Vivaldi on this sparkling new
recording.  In 2004 Bernardini and
Zefiro recorded concertos for various wind instruments that marked their debut
in the Vivaldi Edition.  A
four-star review by London’s Times called the album, Concerti Per Vari Strumenti, “an excellent recording,” noting,
“the strength of the disc is the vibrant baroque colour in the instruments.”

oboe concertos represent the largest single collection of oboe concertos by an
18th-century composer that have come down to us today. The first Venetian
reference to an oboe was in 1692. So it was a new instrument in Venice and it
is amazing that Vivaldi was already writing highly advanced concertos that
thoroughly exploit the technical possibilities of the instrument.  Musically the principal ingredient in
these concertos is the wonderful contrast between the allegro movements, which
are brilliant and highly virtuosic, and the slow movements, which are extremely
touching and expressive. The occasional allegro non molto movements introduce
more moderate colors and emotions, creating an overall, multi-colored panorama.

In Greek mythology, Zephyrus – Zefiro in Italian – was the
gentle, kind God of the West Wind. In 1989, oboists Alfredo Bernardini and
Paolo Grazzi, and bassoonist Alberto Grazzi, members of some of the leading Baroque
orchestras, founded Zefiro, a versatile ensemble specializing in 18th-century
repertoire that gives particular prominence to wind instruments.

Vivaldi:  Farnace

Coro del
Teatro de la Zarzuela

Les Concert
des Nations/Jordi Savall

OP 30471

3CD set available August 25 from naive

Originally issued on the Alia Vox label, Jordi Savall’s
recording of the opera Farnace is now available in the Vivaldi Edition.  The superb cast includes baritone Furio
Zanasi in the title role and Sara Mingardo as Tamiri.

Gramophone described the principal action of the opera in its October
2002 review of the original release:

“Vivaldi composed Farnace for the Venetian Carnival season of
1727. The story gives us the King of Pontus, Farnace, defeated in battle by
Roman forces under Pompeo, yet in rather greater danger from his mother-in-law
Berenice, whose anger at the murder of her husband by Farnace’s father has
never subsided. So blind is Berenice’s hatred that she is out to kill not only
Farnace, but also his wife (her daughter) and son. A further twist is added by
the fact that Farnace orders Tamiri to kill herself and the son rather than
allow themselves to fall into Roman hands, and cruelly denounces her when she
fails to carry out the task.”

Gramophone called the recording “a welcome exposure of one of Vivaldi’s
many operas, all the better for being based on a live production,” with
reviewer Lindsay Kemp noting, “Jordi Savall directs with a sure hand, drawing
exciting and committed playing from Le Concert des Nations and showing fine
control of pace and momentum.”

A note from Jordi Savall (Madrid, October 2001)

“The present recording of Vivaldi’s opera Farnace is the
first complete recording, including all the arias and choruses from the 1731
version, as well as restoring Tamiri’s recitativo accompagnato from the 1738
version. For historical and conceptual reasons, each of the three acts is
preceded by different examples from Corselli’s version of the opera, which was
presented in Madrid in 1738. The entire version is built around a selection of
the best interpretations from the last two performances recorded live at Teatro
de la Zarzuela in Madrid, on 26 and 28 October, 2001. It should therefore be
pointed out that any differences of sound or mood which may occasionally seem
to affect the singing, or give the impression of the singers being further
away, are due to the singers’ position on the stage. Any small inconvenience
arising from the recording of a live stage performance is amply compensated for
by the great spontaneity of the Recitatives and the sincerity of feeling in the
Arias, in which the singers truly improvise some ornamentations in the da capo
sections of the Arias in question.  

“An opera is always an all-round spectacle, in which text,
declamation, music, song, dance and theatre enter into a dialogue and are
united in their one common objective: to invite us to dream by drawing us into
a Utopian world, one which is always full of magic, beauty and emotion.”

Cast information


Vivaldi (1671-1748)

Dramma Per
Musica in 3 Acts

Zanasi, baritone (Farnace)

Mingardo, contralto (Tamiri)

Fernández, soprano (Berenice)

BanditElli soprano / contralto (Selinda)

FortE soprano (Gilade)

BEttini mezzo-soprano (Aquillo)

Sonia Prina
mezzo-soprano (Pompepo)

Coro del
TeaTro de la Zarzuela

Le ConCert
des Nations


Vivaldi Edition nears its halfway point

In 2000, when the Paris-based record company näive
announced its launch of a 15-year project to record the more than 450 works of
Antonio Vivaldi held in the National Library in Torino, Italy, many people were
sceptical.  Nearly 100 CDs by
one composer? Now nearly at the halfway point, the Vivaldi Edition is
recognized as a groundbreaking project with far-reaching repercussions, from
raising the performance level of this composer’s virtuosic music to changing our
understanding of the history of Western music. 

Antonio Vivaldi is practically a household name today
thanks to his ubiquitous piece, The Four Seasons, which is as
much a hit today as it was when it was first published in 1725. We are now learning
that there are numerous works of equal quality penned by the Venetian priest,
including operas on a par with those of Georg Friedrich Handel, sacred music,
and hundreds of concertos. The influence this prolific composer had on the
history of music is only now beginning to be understood and evaluated, in great
part thanks to the Vivaldi Edition.

The project distinguishes itself by engaging some of
the finest modern interpreters of Baroque music and working with leading
Vivaldi scholars on reconstructing much of the music. The packaging, which has
elicited much attention and commentary, presents striking photographic
portraits by artist Denis Rouvre. To date, 43 titles have been released, of
which eight are full-length operas. 

The most recent opera recording, La fida ninfa, features Jean-Christophe Spinosi
conducting the Ensemble Matheus and an all-star cast.  New Yorker critic Alex Ross made the album a CD of the Week at his
popular blog, The Rest Is Noise, and David Stearns gave the album a 4-star review last
month in the Philadelphia Inquirer, calling it “one of the ultimate landmarks” in the
edition.  Lawson Taitte gave the
album an A-rating in the Dallas Morning News, reporting:

“Naive’s series of Vivaldi operas
remains one of our time’s most interesting projects. La fida ninfa, top-flight Vivaldi, has had a few
previous recordings, all dismally inadequate. This new one boasts an all-star
cast and great orchestral playing under Jean-Claude Spinosi, exhilarating in
the Red Priest’s famous storm imitations, feather-light in the many pastoral
moments. The plot involves brothers parted at birth, pirates, lovelorn nymphs
and even a goddess or two. Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, both
sensational, play the sisters; Verónica Cangemi and Philippe Jaroussky are the
brothers, Lorenzo Regazzo the pirate and Topi Lehtipuu the sweet-voiced tenor
father. All are virtuosos in top form. 
Whether you’re a baroque enthusiast or are relatively new to Vivaldi,
you’re likely to enjoy this one.”

Also this month from naive

Amadeus Mozart:  Overtures

National Opera Orchestra

OP 30479

Available August
25 from naive

Rinaldo Alessandrini’s first recording with an orchestra
playing on modern instruments is an all-Mozart album with the Norwegian
National Opera Orchestra, of which Alessandrini is principal guest
conductor.  He has performed many
symphonic and operatic works by Mozart with this ensemble, and the recording
documents their remarkable chemistry and special affinity for the composer’s

Interview with Rinaldo
Alessandrini (excerpted from the liner notes)

The program of this CD is quite original. How did you put
it together?

The idea was to record repertoire that I had worked on a lot
with the orchestra in previous years. I had already conducted La clemenza di
and other
orchestral and operatic music by Mozart. And it seemed to me that the
orchestra’s response was excellent. So it was quite natural to select this
repertoire, since we had to give priority to the orchestra and abandon the use
of singers.

Is there any point in recording operatic overtures
end-to-end like this?

It made it necessary to consider each piece for what it is
in musical terms, to think of it as a moment of music that is sometimes
sublime. So I tried to give priority to a vocabulary that is more symphonic
than operatic.

What was Mozart trying to do in his overtures? Did his
style evolve in them, and if so how?

His style grew more complex in parallel with the rest of his
output. Over the years, Mozart gained in details of articulation, in the
profundity of his melodic inspiration, in the elaborateness of his harmonies,
and above all in the instrumentation, which grew extremely ornate. None of his
contemporaries could match him in this respect. In comparison, Haydn’s
orchestration is much simpler

Finally, do you approach Mozart in the same way as you do
earlier repertoire?

I don’t believe in “visionary” composers, with very few
exceptions. Mozart, in particular, doesn’t look to the future: he looks to what
was happening in his own time. I don’t think the musicians who played his music
could forget in two minutes all the performance practice of the previous
decades, except for changes due to modifications in the way the instruments
were built. To play Mozart as if he were a 19th-century composer would seem
grotesque to me. But to play him like an 18th-century composer brings out the
intuitions and the genius that are his alone and that go beyond the norms of
his time.

The program

La Clemenza di Tito K 621: OVERTURE. MARCIA (I, 4)

Die Zauberflöte K 620: OVERTURE. MARSCH DER PRIESTER (II, 1)

Le Nozze di Figaro K 492: SINFONIA. MARCH (FINALE III)

Così fan tutte K 588: OVERTURE

Don Giovanni K 527: OVERTURE

Les petits riens K 299b: OVERTURE

Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail K 384: OVERTURE

Der Schauspieldirektor K 486: OVERTURE

Mitridate, Rè di Ponto K 87: OVERTURE. MARCIA (I, 10)

Idomeneo, Rè di Creta K 366: OVERTURE. MARCIA (III,7), PASSEPIED

Bastien und Bastienne K 50: INTRADA


by Handel and Telemann

Ensemble Zefiro/Alfredo

AM 192

Available August
25 from ambroisie

ever-popular Water Music, and Telemann’s considerably less well-known works of the same name,
come together on a special re-issue on naïve’s sister label, ambroisie, featuring
irresistibly ebullient performances by the Ensemble Zefiro under the direction
of Alfredo Bernardini. 

Writing for
Audiophile Audition, Laurence Vittes gave enthusiastic praise for the album on its original
release in 2004, calling the ensemble “world class, big time!” and offering
this detailed report:

“Recorded live during a concert at
St. John’s Smith Square in London, the 24 musicians of Zefiro give a brilliant
performance of Handel’s oft-recorded Water Music that could well become the
touchstone for audiophiles seeking to check out their system or investigating
new components. There’s no shortage of such traditional original instrument
delights as added curlicues and roulades and crackling French horns, but the
real news is the unflagging energy of the performance, and the stylish,
exhilarating and seductive virtuosity with which Zefiro set about their work.
Inserting Telemann’s own water music suite, the Hamburger Ebb’ und Flut
Overture from 1723 makes sense both historically (Handel’s suites were probably
compiled in 1717 and 1736) and musically, although Telemann’s wonderfully
careening palette, which runs the gamut from Baroque eroticism to what sounds
like peasant clog dances, smacks as much of the decadence of a Rameau as it
does of the more sober Handel. The gorgeous, rich and weighty (but not heavy)
recording by Simon Fox-Gál sets Zefiro out in a large, airy space whether it’s
ferocious punch or delicious delicacy that’s required.”

#          #          # 

21C Media Group, August 2009

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