I have come to have a real love of the efforts of Morten Lindberg of 2L. Like my beloved Caro Mitis DSD albums, I can always count on one thing: a consistently superb sound. Like many of 2L's recordings, this newest issue "Bellezza Crudel" by Vivaldi, is a new discovery for me.
These four cantatas, performed by Tone Wik and Barokkanerne are true musical gems of the highest order and are worth a serious listen to people who want to expand their knowledge of the prolific output of Vivaldi. While I know nothing of the performers and the ensemble (once again I am convinced that Norway is full of seriously talented musicians) I am impressed by the quality of Tone Wik's marvelous voice and the high-quality playing of the bassoonist Per Hannisdal and recorder player, Alexandra Opshal.
As with all previous releases, the 2L sound is simply world class. The Jar Church (once again, besides great players, Norway is obviously full of killer recording venues) provides a wonderfully warm and intimate environment that lends itself to the superb sound. There is plenty of space around the musicians and there is a sense of palpability on this recording …totally wonderful!
A most highly recommended recording!
Audiophile Audition -
Vivaldi’s instrumental music is sufficiently well known after 60 years of popularization to be easily identifiable when heard out of its usual cultural context. Even television advertisements now use some of his more familiar themes as the basis for selling objects as diverse as diamonds and frozen pizza. One could say that his music has arrived.
Vivaldi’s vocal music is an entirely different matter. Other than the fairly well known Gloria most of his vast vocal output remains an undiscovered country, much of it still in manuscript form resting on dusty shelves in out-of-the-way libraries. We are still in the early stages of its rediscovery. The process may unfold with a similar mixture of surprise and awe such as followed the unexpected success of the famous 1950 Cetra recording of The Four Seasons. That recording introduced music lovers to a vast storehouse of Baroque instrumental music of surprisingly high quality. Recordings such as Belleza Crudel will do the same for Vivaldi’s vocal music; in this instance his superb cantatas. We know of 36 of these operatic short stories, most of which are written for soprano and basso continuo.
This beautiful recording features four cantatas and two popular instrumental concertos in a lovely mixture that presents the two major aspects of Vivaldi’s musical persona. The concertos, as well as parts of the cantatas, feature Vivaldi the lyrical tone painter, skillfully utilizing the pictorial capabilities that are naturally inherent in Baroque music because of its essential structural freedom. The Four Seasons was not an isolated example of Vivaldi’s efforts in this area.
Vivaldi’s other musical face offers an emotional nature of nearly unworldly diffidence. His music can be quietly passionate and sensitively evocative with its sure-handed portrayal of love’s cruelty, the often painful apprehension of beauty and the inevitable torment of loss. This is powerful and heartbreaking music, especially when combined with the sheer beauty of tone and lyrical expressiveness that is found in a superlative singer.
Soprano Tone Wik has a voice of such forlorn beauty and ethereal purity that it perfectly suits Vivaldi’s theatricality. In its agility and accuracy, Ms. Wik’s voice serves as a perfect foil for Vivaldi’s limpid musical lines, brilliantly performed by the Norwegian period ensemble Barokkanerne. Vivaldi never overwhelms the ear. Rather he seduces it with disarming simplicity in the way he uses solo instruments such as the flute and recorder, the cello and the bassoon. These works are almost concertos for solo instrument and voice because of the musical equality with which Vivaldi showcases them. It is hard to imagine discovering a similarly effortless beauty of tone and emotional persuasiveness anywhere else, at least in the near future. This superlative recording will not soon be surpassed. Most strongly recommended.
The sound on this album is beautifully focused and clear. Instruments and voice are presented as if they are performing in the same room as the listener. In its naturalness and warmth, the music has all of the best qualities of an analog vinyl record [plus surround sound!…Ed.].
This well-programmed album intersperses two instrumental concertos amongst four attractive, concise soprano cantatas, all accorded the 2L label's exemplary sound.
In an inspired analogy, the liner notes suggest that Vivaldi's "cantatas can be seen as the short story of the vocal arts- a distillation of the opera, which in its simplicity may have been suitable for tours, for use at concerts at court or musical soirées in the homes of affluent citizens."
The young soprano Tone Wik sings vibrantly in these works, with a touch more vibrato than some others utilize in period performances. These cantatas are scarcely religious, as quotes from the opening lines demonstrate: 'What joy is longing, wretched heart'; 'The little butterfly flutters around the light, the bee flies around the flowers, and Clizia, in love follows her sun'; 'Though the forest, field, and brook thrive without soul, My tears have the power to move them to pity'; 'In the shadow of doubt, The constancy of my love loses some faith, and does not believe in beauty's flattery'.
For whatever occasion Vivaldi composed these rousing and arousing works, the lyrics are clearly superior to those used by a modern chanteuse such as Carla Bruni -- and doubtless, Vivaldi's torch singer was assumed to have great vocal dexterity, to compensate for any lack of skills in the social climbing domain.
In the 2L disc, the soloist plays an alto recorder. This work was originally composed for a recorder before its later adaptation for flute.
The DXD recording is of demonstration standard. The sound shows a glorious richness in the modern 2L recording which outshines any competition. How much this is due to 2L's DXD recording process, or the use of state-of-the-art microphones and cabling is a moot point, one that most music lovers would be grateful for yet set aside when listening to the beautiful sounds captured on this release.