Sunday, April 8, 2007

Vivaldi, Biondi & Daniels

TONIGHT'S SOUNDTRACK: A Virgin-Veritas CD of the Stabat Mater and two motets by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), a.k.a. the "Red Priest," a.k.a. the "Venetian Sewing Machine," best known as the composer of scads of concertos including "The Four Seasons." Vivaldi taught music at a girls' orphanage, and most of his pieces were written for his students to play or sing (such as Vivaldi's choral masterpiece, the Gloria).

The Stabat Mater, however, was written to be sung by a male soloist (either a countertenor or a castrato), accompanied by a string orchestra. It was written on commission for a church in Breschia, which is where Vivaldi originally came from, and the composer may never have heard it performed. On this recording it and the two motets (Nisi Dominus - "Except the Lord build the house"; Longe mala, umbrae, terrores - "Longstanding ills, shadows, terrors") are performed by an American countertenor named David Daniels, whom I have had the pleasure of hearing live in concert. The Europi Galanti, a small period-instrument ensemble, is conducted by Fabio Biondi, who also plays violin and viola d'amore on the recording.

Both in person and on CD, there is something very impressive about Daniels' voice. It is light, clear, strong, and agile. He enunciates well and is sensitive to the drama of the text. He has a wide range of dynamics, including a truly haunting pianissimo. But the really astonishing thing, especially in live concert, is simply to hear the unearthly (because unaccustomed) sound of a male alto. One's sense of reality quavers when this big, bearded guy draws in a breath and starts singing sweetly in a high range that few men can reach, and those only with special training.

P.S.: I like the picture on the left, so I've been wanting to share it. I suppose the time seemed right, since I was just saying something about one's sense of reality going a bit wobbly. That's what I thought when I first saw this picture.

Really, though, keep your cats inside, people. Having just paid an enormous veterinarian's bill for my two cats (who are strictly-indoors types), I can just imagine the cost of the care a cat would need after spending most of its time outdoors - if it is lucky enough to get that care! Cats are vulnerable to disease, predators, vehicles, and each other. Left to themselves, they beget more unwanted cats who become a public nuisance. God created the litterbox so that you can love your cat better! End of sermon.

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