Antonio and Andreas

Curious about the title of this blog? Here are Antonio and Andreas.

Left Antonio Vivaldi, an Italian Baroque composer (1678 – 1741) and right Andreas Scholl, a German countertenor (1967 -).

In this post the connection between the two are three beautiful religious masterpieces, composed by Vivaldi and sung by Scholl.

The first one is Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, composed in 1721 for alto or countertenor. It describes the sorrow of Mary, the mother of Jesus during his crucifixion. The first stanza reads: Stabat mater dolorósa juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Fílius (The sorrowful mother was standing beside the Cross weeping, while the Son was hanging)

Here is the Stabat Mater, sung by Andreas Scholl. Click on the manuscript to listen.

Many recordings exist. Listen to Who sings Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater best? for a comparison of four countertenors and one alto. For me Andreas Scholl is the best.

The second one is Vivaldi’s Salve Regina, also about Mary, the mother of Jesus, venerated by Catholic Christians. The first stanza reads Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.(Hail O queen. Mother of mercy, Our life, tenderness and hope; hail.). In this YouTube Scholl is singing while you can follow the score.

There doesn’t (yet) exist a Who sings Vivaldi’s Salve Regina best? I found a few recordings of RV 616 on YouTube. Here are Calos Mena, Spanish countertenor , Sara Mingardo , Italian contralto, and James Bowman , English countertenor. Listen and judge for yourself.

VIvaldi was a prolific composer, the Catalogue of Vivaldi’s works has more than 800 entries. He composed the Salve Regina four times (one got lost). Here are recordings of RV 617 by Gabriela Eibnerova, a Czech soprano (beautiful!) and RV 618 by Gérard Lesne , a French countertenor.

The third one is not about Maria. It is a cantata, a setting of psalm 127, named after the first two Latin words, Nisi Dominus (Unless the Lord …). Click here for the complete text. And listen to this magistral recording by Andreas Scholl (in 2000).

Many years ago the Nisi Dominus was my first introduction to Vivaldi as a composer of more than the Four Seasons. This post is about his sacred music, but he also wrote beautiful operas, just listen to the aria Gelido in ogni vena from his opera Farnace and to Armatae Face et anquibus from Juditha Triumphans.

To preserve the balance in this post between Antonio and Andreast, listen to Andreas Scholl in works by other composers. Here is the Agnus Dei from Bach’s Mass in B minor and the duet Io t’abbracio from Handel’s opera Rodelinda.

The third part of Nisi Dominus has been recorded by many singers, both countertenors and contraltos. There is a YouTube Who Sings Cum Dederit Best, but for reasons unclear to me, Andreas Scholl is not included. Several comments on the video criticise this omission.

To finish this post in a lighter vein, I will give you the text of Cum Dederit. Personally I find the music still emotional, even after listing numerous times. Wouldn’t you expect a deeper meaning? Here is the Latin text and translation

My paraphrase: The Lord will give his beloved a good sleep and reward them with a numerous offspring.

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