From Development server
Recordings > Recital

Philippe Jaroussky: "Pieta"

spacer Sacred works for alto by Vivaldi. Ensemble Artaserse, Jaroussky. Texts and translations. Erato 0825646258109


Philippe Jaroussky is back, after a self-imposed sabbatical, with music of Vivaldi, the composer the French countertenor regards as his good-luck charm. In form and style similar to his operatic writing, Vivaldi’s sacred works are vocally gratifying and, in most cases, musically effective. The superstar singer has chosen some superb compositions for a CD that will delight his fans both as ear candy and as musically sophisticated performances.

Leading his own Ensemble Artaserse, Jaroussky presents Vivaldi’s first sacred composition, a Stabat Mater setting for solo alto and strings, somber in tone from dense string writing and minor keys for every movement. At first, Jaroussky’s sunny, clear voice sounds a bit white and weightless, especially after the instrumental introduction, but where the vocal lines lie higher in range, the countertenor’s customary delicacy and gossamer phrasing serve beautifully. The stark atmosphere and weird staccato string chirping of “Eia mater” highlight Jaroussky’s long lines and spun tone most captivatingly, while the many movements in rocking rhythms, “O quam tristis,” “Pro peccatis” and “Fac ut ardeat,” are beguilingly delivered.

In complete contrast, the familiar Longe Mala, Umbrae, Terrores (Be gone evils, shadows, terrors) is a virtuoso concerto for voice, demanding great flexibility and athleticism. Jaroussky is so musical he’s able to bring wit to the swaths of coloratura (although some dry attacks in the final “Alleluia” reveal how hard he’s working) and manages to make the slow movement, “Descende, o coeli vox” (Descend, O voice of heaven) sound timeless and spacious while still moving inexorably forward. 

In spite of his superstar status, Jaroussky is not one of those aggressive or glittery countertenors with in-your-face fioritura and Leontyne-wannabe high notes. He excels at lyrical, rhapsodic pieces that allow him to revel in gorgeous soft singing, but he’s also sophisticated and sensitive to harmonic movement and shifting instrumental textures. He brings urgency to the pecking repeated-notes of “Nunc iubilare” (Then rejoice), the fast movement of the short cantata Clarae Stellae, and jubilant buoyance to its final “Alleluia.” In Vivaldi’s many slow movements, in which the strings etch out creepy, stroking chords, Jaroussky traces filigreed phrases with utmost delicacy and commitment. “Sileant zephyri” (Let the winds be silent), from the superb cantata Filiae Maestae Jerusalem, is a case in point.

It’s a testament to Jaroussky’s artistry that he chooses to end the CD with Vivaldi’s Salve Regina, whose final movement paints intense longing with a sweetly sighing close. Excellent liner notes by Frédéric Delaméa grace this thoughtful and beautifully produced release. spacer 


Send feedback to OPERA NEWS.

Follow OPERA NEWS on FacebookTwitter Button