Adelaide Baroque

Adelaide Baroque violin player photo

Adelaide Baroque at the Cathedral of St Francis Xavier in Adelaide
March 31st 2023

Vivaldi ‘Nisi Dominus’ RV 608 and Alessandro Scarlatti ‘Stabat Mater’
A beautiful venue for these two emotional religious works with the apt visuals complementing the music. The singers and the players performed with sensitivity, understanding and perfect ensemble, relaying the mood and emotions with control and conviction.
Nisi Dominus is an elaborate setting of psalm 126, the text instructs people that nothing can be done without God’s grace. The energetic opening captured this conviction and Vivaldi made the most of the text with special effects – fast runs when arrows were mentioned; throbbing bass lines to calm down. The soloist, counter tenor, Michael Burden, captured the mood very well with his clear, straightforward singing and his tone blended easily with the small group of string players. One verse was accompanied by cello and harpsichord only and the three voices were so transparent and effective. The solo viola d’amore played fluently by Heidi von Bernewitz added a special colour to the rather sombre Gloria and a rousing ‘Amen” ended the multifaceted work.
Scarlatti was commissioned to write a setting of Stabat Mater for the Holy Week ceremonies of the Friars Minor in Naples in 1724, the year before he died. His late composition has extraordinary musical richness, variety of forms, chromatic freedom and flexibility of expression. The orchestral parts are quite virtuosic and the vocal parts have a natural flow and shape. Desiree Frahn, soprano and Sally-Anne Russell, mezzo soprano seemed really at home in the music and at one with the orchestra.
Their duets blended beautifully together and in some arias the mezzo soprano was pitched lower than the violins which gave a wonderful texture. The soprano arias were more prominent, but Desiree’s even tone and control kept the balance with the ensemble. Maybe the original soloists were boys.
The bass line was very strong and impelling, the violone added that extra richness and they carried the music. Especially in the Mezzo aria where they were accompanying with pizzicato. The upper strings embellished and interwove beautifully with the voices. The harpsichord was rather lost in the big space, maybe it could be placed at the front.
The concert left an afterglow; the polished performance and the emotionally charged music affected the audience visibly, we were uplifted.
Gabrielle Scherrer

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