Fruity yet serene Vivaldi cantatas

A vibrant mix of choral simplicity and dancing vocals in these Vivaldi concertos and cantatas, thanks to Mhairi Lawson's boyish soprano charm.

Composer: Vivaldi
Repertoire: Music for the Chapel of the Pietà
Artists: Mhairi Lawson (soprano), La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Avie AV 2063

The Vivaldi specialists of La Serenissima produce their finest recording to date with these four concertos and two cantatas composed for performance in the Chapel of the Pietà, the Venetian girls’ orphanage that employed Vivaldi intermittently from 1704 until 1738. The first track kicks off with a powerfully declamatory obbligato from founder-fiddler Adrian Chandler.

The cantatas are sung by the soft-focus Scottish soprano Mhairi Lawson. She is boyish simplicity itself in Laudate pueri with a clear, straight tone at the opening, innocent excitement at the Excelsus and a solid, affirmative quality in the concluding Amen. By contrast she delivers the opening movement of Salve Regina with breathy excitement. She sings the racing Ad te clamabo like a fruity gossip, floats with gondola smoothness through the subsequent dance and concludes the cantata in slow, effortless serenity, giving a vivid vocal depiction of sorrowful departure.

The disc’s central concerto – per la solennita della S Lingua di S Antonio – is a vehicle for Chandler to show off his dazzling, eloquent technique. He speaks through the phrases and kisses the high notes which climb amazingly to squeak-pitch in the finale. The group delivers a searing crescendo and plays throughout with a touch so versatile it can switch from a fortissimo growl to, well, a serenissimo whisper at will.