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In the years leading up to the turn of the millennium, ‘Nulla in mundo pax sincera’, the opening section of Vivaldi’s Motet in E, was very much associated with an Australian jumping up and down on a trampoline in a dodgy raincoat.
Thankfully, this period has lapsed. But the memory lingers, as they say. It came about when the piece received a fresh lease of life as part of the soundtrack to the 1996 Scott Hicks film, Shine, about the life of pianist David Helfgott.
Although Rachmaninov and his Piano Concerto No.3 were the main recipients of the film’s inherited limelight, ‘Nulla in mundo pax sincera’ was certainly back on the map. The title translates as ‘There is no true peace left in the world’ and it goes on, ‘free from bitterness: pure and true peace, sweet Jesus, lies in you’.
The setting, for soprano with just two violins, a viola and basso continuo (an inter-changeable low line, usually taken up by the cello), adds a beautiful sparseness to a tune that is already exquisitely icy. If you try Emma Kirkby’s version on the album below, you also get the other two sections of the motet, a recitative and a concluding Alleluia.
Emma Kirkby (soprano); Academy of Ancient Music; Christopher Hogwood (conductor). Decca: 4557272.
Illustration: Mark Millington