The purity of Hyssop, the whiteness of snow

Friday 19 April 2019

For 35 years now, Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano ensemble, which he founded, have blazed new trails and set new standards in historical music performance. The artists specialise in the Italian Baroque, headed by two of its outstanding representatives: Claudio Monteverdi (whose complete set of operas they performed in Milan's La Scala and Paris' Opéra Garnier, directed by Bob Wilson) and Antonio Vivaldi.

On Maundy Thursday, the ensemble in cooperation with the Polish Radio Choir presented music lovers gathered at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre with the opportunity to hear the latter composer’s Credo in E minor RV 591. If you missed it, you will be able to enjoy it as a rebroadcast on Polish Radio Channel 2 and the French Mezzo TV. 

While listening to this beautiful, poignant and contrasting music – especially given such a stylish, passionate performance – it is hard to believe that the work of the Red Priest was forgotten for nearly two centuries, and during his lifetime he was valued more as a virtuoso violinist than a composer. And even if there is a bit of truth in the sharp words of Igor Stravinsky, who claimed that Vivaldi composed the same concert 400 times, does this make us love the Four Seasons less? 

The Venetian composer's Credo was juxtaposed with two other famous sacral works of the late Baroque. After the work by the Venetian priest, we listened to Miserere mei, Deus by Leonardo Leo, a work deeply embedded in the Neapolitan tradition by composer of a long series of operas seria and buffa, maestro di cappella of the royal chapel. This elaborate, multifaceted piece, composed for two choirs and a basso continuo, delighted the romantics, such as Wagner, who compared it to a “mighty cathedral”. Its penitential expression, yet full of subdued emotions was beautifully presented by the singers of the Polish Radio Choir, owing to the focused and suggestive direction of Alessandrini. It was thanks to them that King David’s begging for forgiveness of his sins went so far: to the pure fields of hyssop, the whiteness of plains of snow.

The second part of the evening was filled with Antonio Maria Bononcini's Stabat Mater in C minor – one of the most famous musicalisations of Jacopone da Todi's sequences. It represents the style of the Bolognese school, where the composer, like his somewhat more popular brother Giovanni, studied music, although his life was mostly spent in Modena. The solo parts of the work (which is complemented by the choir and string orchestra with organ) were masterfully presented by soprano Sonia Tedla, alto Enrico Torre, tenor Luca Cervoni remembered from the inaugural concert, and Salvo Vitale, endowed with a strong, charismatic bass with an extensive scale.

Today, join us at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre at 8:00 p.m. for a concert of the sacred music of the forgotten Neapolitan Antonio Nola, presented by Cappella Neapolitana, Maestro Antonio Florio and a quintet of soloists, including soprano Anna Zawisza. We’ll be waiting!

Monika Partyk