Antonio Vivaldi Musique sacrée pour contralto cordes et basse continue


Antonio Vivaldi 
Vestro principi divino (Motet RV 633)
Stabat Mater (RV 621)
Filiae maestae Jerusalem (Introduzione Al Miserere RV 638)
Nisi Dominus (Psaume 126)

Gérard Lesne (contralto) 
Ensemble Il Seminario musicale
Bernadette Charbonnier
Myriam Gevers
Jacques Maillard
Marc Minkowski
Bruno Cocset
Pascal Monteilhet
Richard Myron
Jean-Charles Ablitzer

"Diapason d'Or" de Diapason-Harmonie n°355
"10" de Répertoire n° 21-2
"un événement exceptionnel" de Télérama n°2084
"Recommandé" par Classica n°18
"Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros"


Antonio Vivaldi maestro di coro all'ospizio della Pietà

Vivaldi was intermittently employed under a variety of titles by the Santa Maria della Pietà hospice, from 1703 to 1739. The manuscript scores for the four pieces on this recording are held by the National Library of Turin, but there is no indication on them regarding the churches where they were performed, or the dates. We also know that Vivaldi composed numerous sacred works for churches other than the famed Venetian charitable institution. And yet, despite the mystery surrounding the Turin manuscripts, we might allow ourselves to imagine the Prete Rosso writing these pages especially for the "choir girls" of the Pietà, who sang under his direction. Careful scrutiny of the paper, ink, and handwriting of the pages onto which the composer transcribed the motet Vestro Principi divino (RV 633) and the Introduction to the Miserere (RV 638) confirmed Irish musicologist Paul Everett's assumption that they were written between 1713 and 1717, or the exact period during which Vivaldi served the ospedale in the post of maestro di coro.

The brevity of the four works, and the small size of the orchestral and vocal groups for which they were written, also seem to reflect the "intimate" nature of the Pietà chapel, and to differentiate them in distinctive ways from the typically Vivaldian sacred works for larger choral and instrumental groups, intended for vaster settings, such as the Basilica of San Marco.

Instrumentally, the pieces are written in four-part form (two violins, viola, and continuo), which was standard for both sacred and profane Italian music during the first thirty years of the Settecento. Father Zaccaria Tevo further specifies that the "upper" voices should be performed by violins, horns, or trumpets, the middle voices by the viola da braccio (related to the viola d'amore), and the bass by viola da gamba, bassoon, or trombone. The basso continuo voice is assigned to the violone (a viola with a lower register, the precursor of our own double-bass), and the theorbo (a kind of lute) which in a church would obviously be joined by the organ. For accompanying pieces written for solo voice, Tevo suggests that musicians use whatever number of instruments they like, "that is, two solo violins, or two violins and a bass viola or all of the instruments listed above together" (Il Musico Testore, Venice, 1706; Part IV, chap. XVlll).

These four works by Vivaldi form part of a group of sacred pieces (psalms, motets, Salve Regina...) for one or two solo voices, soprano or contralto, a factor which also appears to confirm the assumption concerning whom they were written for. Caution should be exercised, however, when interpreting historical documents today. We know, for example, that in the 18th century, women were not allowed to sing in churches. According to Zaccaria Tevo, young boys (fanciulli) customarily sang the soprano voice. The alto voice was frequently sung by counter tenors (or falsetto voices) (Idem., Part II, chap. XVl). In the Venetian ospedali, however, only girls were given instruction in music and allowed to sing in the "choir". Since in this context there were no bass voices, feminine contralti were substituted. This practice, common along the lagoon, came as a surprise to visitors from abroad. English musicologist Charles Burney, on a visit to Venice in 1770, writes in these terms of his own surprise : "In this conservatory, after attending a service at the Mendicanti, I heard a group of young girls singing contralto in a relatively low range, which had the advantage of supporting the soprano and the mezzo-soprano voices, for whom they served as a bass line". This Venetian custom may serve as a partial explanation of the preference shown by some local composers (such as Antonio Vivaldi and Benedetto Marcello) for the smooth timbre of the alto range ("Altus Apollineum carmen depingit, & omat", notes Tevo), a timbre which blends perfectly with the viola and cello, and strikes just the right chord in listeners when singing of the suffering of Jesus Christ.

During his stay on the lagoon, Burney also noted that the ducal chapel of San Marco and the parish churches were expected to follow (except on feast days) the tradition of plain chant and stile osservato, with their solemn, contrapuntal structure. But the ospedali were allowed free rein, and they could employ the fashionable stile moderno using melodic development and the solo voice. Actually, throughout the 18th century, Venetian composers made an effort to combine the tradition of the stile antico or da chiesa (in turns contrapuntal and harmonic), with the concert language characteristic of the great "cori battenti" tradition and then the rapidly developing monodic compositional form. The Stabat Mater dolorosa and the Nisi Dominus aedificaverit are both liturgical works and, therefore, conservative in style. Even Domenico Scarlatti composed a Stabat (in 1720) for ten voices and continuo in the pure choral style of the Roman church. Vivaldi's Stabat (RV 621) is presented in its popular version, that is, treated as a hymn (such as those sung at Vespers on the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, falling on the first Friday after Easter). The composer made use of the Stabat text attributed to Jacopone da Todi only in part. He took the first four verses, expressing the Virgin's grief, and the first of the six verses making up the Christian's prayer. The first movement (Largo, 3/4 time, F-major) is sweeping, solemn, and harmonic, with a regular eighth-note beat supporting the expressive solo line. By contrast, the final Amen (Allegro, 3/8 time, F-minor) is fast, jubilant, relatively vocal and polyphonic. The G-minor Nisi Dominus (RV 608) (psalm 126, chanted at Tuesday Vespers) is reminiscent of the style found in Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso : A fast overture (Allegro in C), with the Sicut Erat returning just before the final Amen to the introductory tutti, and the "stretto" entrance of the slow and formal Surgite, Cum dederit (Largo, 12/8 time) serving as a brief transitional passage between the two fast movements, Sicut sagittae (Allegro, 3/8 time) monodic, tonal, and constructed in a dance-like rondo form unfolding in a ribbon of equal eight notes. The many concerts effects used in this piece are also reminiscent of Corelli : antiphony between the tutti and the concertino, the alternation between fast and slow movements in the nine verses of the Nisi, also within the Surgite section, producing continual tension between acceleration and deceleration. But Vivaldi is not Corelli. Antonio Vivaldi was a man of the solo concerto era, and one of its brightest stars. The slow sections of the Stabat (Cuius animam gementem; Adagissimo) and the Nisi (Cum dederit; Largo), serious and lyrical, with their solid tutti serving as a harmonic base for the soloist's sad and expressive melody, are actually conceived as the central movement of a violin concerto would be. And it is precisely in the spirit of a concerto for solo instrument that the contralto relates to the instrumental accompaniment, repeating the theme just set forth in the instrumental ritornello, or maintaining a dialogue with several instruments in the orchestra, taken singly. The dialogue with the continuo in Vanum est vobis and Beatus vir is severe and unadorned; with the viola d'amore in the Gloria Patri (Nisi), it is lyrical. In this, Vivaldi seems to be obeying the teaching of Zaccaria Tevo, who advised composers to orchestrate liturgical verses and responses differently, in order to express the specific feeling of each (Il Musico Testore, 360-361). The various techniques used here to highlight the solo melody (minimal support from the continuo in the Cum dederit or a cappella vocal cadences in O quam tristis) are, here again, methods frequently found in the concerto for solo instrument.

By a process of interaction, the same methods also recur in opera and cantata. Vivaldi's fascination with the theater is in fact obvious throughout the pages of this score. Note, for example, the clear appeal of the two-part aria form : in pieces 4, 5 and 6 of the Stabat, pieces 1, 2, and 3 return with a different text; and the form, tonal progression, and feeling of each movement in this hymn to the Virgin are also repeated. But it is especially in the non-liturgical pieces, based on anonymous verses written in late Latin by Christian poets, that the relationship in Vivaldi's music between the sacred and profane appears to be at its strongest and freest. According to J.J. Quantz, the motet form was widespread in Italian churches during the 18th century. "In Italy today, wrote the German flutist in 1752, the word "motet" refers to a sacred solo cantata to a Latin text, made up of two arias, two recitativos, and an Alleluja coda, usually sung by one of the best singers during the mass" (Versuch einer Anweisung...). Intended as a complement to the silent portions of religious services, the motet is often lighthearted in feeling, with a decorative melody. The subject of the text is usually the feast day being celebrated. Twelve motets for solo voice composed by the Prete Rosso have come down to us today. Vestro Principi divino, written in a metaphorical and arcadian style, is a song in praise of Christ resurrected, savior of mankind. Two arias frame a short recitativo secco. The first, Vestro Principi, is jubilant and luminous, written in da capo form. The second, Quid loqueris ad cor, employs a formal dance construction (aa bb cc d) in a kind of sprightly, cheerful monologue that is refreshingly lighthearted, with great expressive variety and an energetic rhythm. Last comes the Alleluja, which begins with the singer supported only by the continuo. Unity of key (F-major) and theme; and simplicity of both vocal line and instrumental accompaniment are the outstanding characteristics of this brief piece that has been unjustly neglected by history.

The Introduzione is a fairly unusual form of which we have few examples. Based on the motet (without the final Alleluja), its function, as indicated by its name, is to serve as the introduction to a religious piece (Gloria, Dixit...) to which it contributes a certain emphasis. Today, eight Introduzione by Vivaldi are extant in manuscript form. Two of them were written for a Miserere in C-minor which unfortunately has not survived. Filiae maestae Jerusalem is made up of an aria (Sileant Zephiri; Largo 3/4 time, F-minor) in three-part form, a lyric, rhythmic dialogue between voice and orchestra, framed by two accompanied recitativos. The first of these is expressively accented over long, solemn, movingly held chords, suggesting the weeping of the Daughters of Jerusalem and of all creation at the memory of Christ's suffering. The second is more dramatic, leading us through a recitativo secco arioso into the key of the Miserere.

Like all creators of genius, Antonio Vivaldi has here succeeded in achieving a synthesis among differing modes of expression (sonata, concerto, opera, cantata...) available to him. But in contrast to his more conservative fellows (Antonio Caldara and Antonio Lotti, for example), the Prete Rosso imbued virtually all his sacred works with a "modern" coloration that brought the solo melody to the fore. This uniquely characteristic feature of Vivaldi's work is due in part, of course, to the "extravagant" artist's individualistic temperament; but it also reflects the atmosphere of the institution to which he was attached throughout his career, the Ospedale della Pietà, a ferment of social symbiosis and a historic adventure rife with modernism.

Founded in the 16th century by religious orders and laymen as a refuge for abandoned children, the hospices of Venice thus were subject to both church and laymen for their administration and control. They survived on charitable donations and income from the work (weaving, crafts, embroidery, nursing...) of the children and adolescents they sheltered. In all four Ospedali, the Mendicanti, Incurabili, Derelitti (or Ospedaletto) and Pietà, instruction in music was given at an early age to the girls (and only to the girls!), so they could sing at the services performed in their respective institution's chapel. However, as Venice theatrical life developed, these musical chapels assumed in the 17th and 18th centuries a dimension going far beyond their initial mission. For these charitable institutions, the Cori became a source of pride and a focus of international curiosity; and, as a result, also a not inconsiderable source of income. The musical instruction became more intensive and more complex. In addition to the music masters attached to the ospedali (the maestre), the governatori also called on vocal, instrumental, and music theory masters from outside. The maestro di coro was responsible for the heavy task of instructing the girls three times weekly; playing the organ during church services; writing oratorios and composing for the chapel two motets per month, two new Masses and Vespers per year, sections of the Ordinary of the Mass, psalms, hymns, and sacred songs for Vespers and Compline.

In the summertime, when the city's theaters were closed, the four ospedali offered native Venetians and visitors alike a rich series of "spiritual concerts". In a spirit of keen competition inevitable under the circumstances, each institution fielded its best singers and instrumentalists, and commissioned works from the outstanding composers of the day. This was heartily reciprocated by the musicians themselves, the most eminent of whom, whether Venetians also holding a post at San Marco, or Neapolitans eager to remain in contact with the fair city on the lagoon, vied for the chance. This meant that the choir masters employed by the Venice ospedale during the Settecento were opera composers recognized throughout Europe.

The 1716 performance at the Pietà of Juditha Triumphans (a "military-sacred" oratorio by Vivaldi celebrating in allegorical form the peace signed between the Republic of Venice and Turkey) is an eloquent illustration of the sacred-profane atmosphere that reigned in these institutions during the 18th century, the atmosphere in which the Prete Rosso worked. The four ospedali also endowed themselves during the Settecento with splendid halls in which to perform the music, sparing no effort to achieve acoustical and decorative perfection. This 18th tendency to turn Venetian religious painting and music into theater was severely reproved by the local clergy, but it delighted the eyes and ears of the city's inhabitants and visitors. On a visit to Venice in 1743, Jean-Jacques Rousseau "confessed": "I couldn't imagine anything as ravishing, as touching as this music : the artistic richness, the exquisite taste of the melodies, the beauty of the voices, the skill in execution, everything about these delicious concerts combines to produce an impression which is surely not very reverent, but to which I doubt any man's heart could long remain insensitive... The church was always full, even the actors from the Venice opera came to learn what these excellent models had to teach about real singing". In 1765 J.J. de La Lande commented in the same vein :"The feeling of this church music is cheerful and even dancelike; it seems no different from music for the theater, and cannot be considered as a genre apart". Cried Charles Burney, five years later : "They sing like angels!"

These enthusiastic accounts caused considerable concern, however. Venetian sacred music was accused of marking a decline during the 18th century, a decline some attributed to the city's theaters and ospedali being taken over by composers and singers from Napoli, to the departure for the German courts of prolific composer such as Antonio Caldara, and to the death in 1740 of the great Antonio Lotti. As Gregoire Orloff wrote in 1822 in his Essai sur l'histoire de la musique en Italie : "the distinctive character of the Venetian School, as of the Neapolitan, its model and sometime rival, is not that of church music, but rather of the theater and chamber music it cultivated most".

On the basis of the evidence, it seems important, today, to revise the ideas handed down to us from the 19th century. These pieces by Vivaldi prove that in Settecento Venice, the real center of new religious music was no longer San Marco (which served, rather, as the museum for an ossified past), but the lively chapels of the city's four ospedali. Unfortunately, however, the governing bodies of these institutions made no effort to preserve copies of the compositions written for them, much less to publish them. The religious compositions of the Prete Rosso were preserved in only fragmentary form and, as it were, by miracle. Some sixty manuscripts (RV 586 to 648) held by Foà and Giordano Foundations of the Turin Library represent only an infinitesimal portion of the total works composed by the Venetian master for the Pietà. Publication and recording of these scores was, in addition, only undertaken at a late date (after more than two and a half centuries of silence, the first international recording of the motet Vestro Principi divino was finally made in 1988), and is still far from complete.

Venetian sacred music of the Settecento has frequently been accused of levity and even, with ridiculous exaggeration, of being the "opera" of the period. And yet, in these four pieces, there is no trace of acrobatic virtuosity or straining for gratuitous effect. Using countless technical subtleties (the choice of rhythm, harmony, timbre, and vocal modulations developed in a restrained ambitus...), Vivaldi communicates to the listener an emotion that is sincere, an expression of genuine mysticism. It is true that in this music, in contrast to Corelli's, we no longer sense a soul melting into the collectivity but, rather, one leaping heavenwards alone, courageously drawing the congregation of the faithful towards a new type of spirituality that was sometimes imperfectly understood by the society of the period. The masters who composed in their posts as choir masters for the Venetian ospedali (A. Vivaldi, A. Lotti, J.A. Hasse, N. Porpora, B. Galuppi, N. Jommelli, T. Traetta, P. Anfossi) steeped in the mercenary, turbulent, vain world of the theater as they may have been, surely could not have remained indifferent to the fate of their singers. The members of the Ospedali choirs, youthful unfortunates, orphaned and poor, cast by cruel fate into the shadows and strict discipline of the monastic life, were vocal artists worthy of the greatest theaters in Europe, performers that illustrious dignitaries came all the way to Venice to hear (although never to see!). The "angels" who gave their all to music were deprived of personal fame, but today we find the names of some of them scribbled between the pages of the manuscript scores, printed on published oratorio books, and immortalized in the accounts of foreign visitors who traveled to Venice to hear them.

Extensive, methodical investigation of the surviving musical source material is required in order to tabulate with greater accuracy the works produced for the ospedali, and to evaluate the sacred music heard in Venice during the 17th and 18th centuries. But we can already safely assume that all of these scores currently dispersed throughout the world will, someday, like those of Vivaldi, Lotti, and Galuppi, come alive once more, and sing into our hearts the sublime musical language of Venice that combined with such consummate skill "the solemnity, majesty, and balance of the contrapuntal style with the grace, elegance, fire, and imaginative power of the theatrical art".

Text after Sylvie Mamy original

Gérard Lesne


Gérard Lesne is an established specialist in medieval and baroque vocal music. He made his debut in 1979 with the Clemencic Consort of Vienna, and has since frequently performed and recorded with this group.

Since 1981, Gérard Lesne has appeared and recorded regularly with major French medieval, renaissance, and baroque groups, Ensemble Organum, Ensemble Clément Janequin, La Grande Ecurie et La Chambre du Roy, La Chapelle Royale, Les Arts Florissants, and Hesperion XX.

In 1985, Gérard Lesne founded the Il Seminario musicale Ensemble, a vocal and instrumental group specialized in the 17th and 18th-century Italian repertoire.

Among Gérard Lesne's numerous recordings is Harmonic Classics Sacred Music for Contralto, Strings and Continuo (Stabat Mater, Nisi Dominus, etc.) by Antonio Vivaldi.

This album was extremely well-receveid by the critics, and won the Académie Charles Cros Grand Prix.

Il Seminario musicale

Gérard Lesne founded the Il Seminario musicale Ensemble in 1985. Since 1990, the Ensemble has been in residence at the Royaumont Foundation, where it attracts vocalists and instrumentalists who share Lesne's enthusiam for the 17th and 18th century Italian repertoire.

The musicians perform on old instruments and strive to reproduce as faithfully as possible the lilt and narrative line characteristic of the baroque style as expressed in works by composers such as Monteverdi, Cavalli, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Caldara, Pergolèse, and the others. The size of the ensemble is variable depending on the repertoire. Based on a rich and varied continuo section (theorbo, cello, basson, double bass, organ and harpsichord) supporting one or more soloists, it can be expanded with the addition of a string quartet to make a small chamber orchestra suitable for performing chamber operas. Responsibility for the Ensemble's musical direction is shared by the instrumentalists and vocalists.

for this album the members of the Il Seminario musicale Ensemble are :

Bernadette Charbonnier, violin
Myriam Gevers, violin
Jacques Maillard, viola and viola d’amore
Marc Minkowski, bassoon
Bruno Cocset, violoncello
Pascal Monteilhet, theorbo and baroque lute
Richard Myron, double-bass
Jean-Charles Ablitzer, positive organ


Vestro principi divino
Mottetto per contralto, due violini, viola e basso RV 633
Bibliothèque Nationale, Giordano, Turin, M.S. 32 (f. 159-166)


Stabat Mater
per contralto, archi e basso continuo RV 621
dédié à Gian Francesco Malipiero
Bibliothèque Nationale, Giordano, Turin, M.S. 33 (f. 36-46)

Stabat Mater
Cuius animam
O quam tristis
Quis est homo
Quis non posset
Pro peccatis
Eja Mater
Fac ut ardeat

Filiae maestae Jerusalem
Introduzione al Miserere per contralto, due violini, viola e basso RV 638
Bibliothèque Nationale, Giordano, Turin, M.S. 33 (f. 54-59)


Nisi Dominus (Salmo 126)
per contralto, archi e basso continuo RV 608
dédié à Francesco Degrada
Bibliothèque Nationale, Foà, Turin, M.S. 40 (f. 251-297)

Nisi Dominus
Vanum est vobis
Cum dederit
Sicut sagittae
Beatus vir
Gloria Patri
Sicut erat in principio


"Diapason d'Orde Diapason-Harmonie n°355 :

Le Stabat Mater de Vivaldi a déjà connu de grandes versions. En 1966, la plus belle de toutes, sous la baguette d'Angelo Ephrikian avec Aafje Heynis. Puis vint en 1976 la superbe gravure Hogwood-Bowman, la seule jusqu'à Gérard Lesne à confier la partie de contralto au contre-ténor, mais dans une perspective esthétique fondamentalement différente. Poussant très loin les recherches organologiques, Hogwood calquait ses effectifs sur ceux de la Pietà vers 1713-16, époque de composition du Stabat, respectait l'usage des "cori battenti" dans la disposition des violons, proposait enfin les "piombi" comme sourdines dans le Nisi Dominus, s'approchant d'un idéal instrumental. Avec Heynis et Bowman, tout semblait avoir été dit. Le contralto hollandais s'identifiait à la Mère du Christ se consumant de détresse, le texte de Jacopone da Todi s'écoulant comme un long monologue intériorisé. L'assemblée des fidèles respectait sa douleur, l'orchestre se faisant humble et attentif, mais restait exclu. Bowman était l'enfant assistant au drame de la Passion, la compassion de Notre-Dame devenant une douce prière d'une expression dépouillée, enveloppée d'une grande tristesse.
Il fallait à Gérard Lesne du courage pour replacer le Stabat dans le contexte sacro-profane de la chapelle de la Pietà, où naquirent Juditha Triumphans en 1716 (le rôle de Judith étant tenu probablement par l'interprète du Nisi Dominus dont un air est lui aussi accompagné par la viole d'amour), et sans doute même l'intégralité des œuvres réunies sur ce CD. Lesne introduit son programme par une louange au Christ ressuscité. Le motet Vestro Principi Divino écrit en langage métaphorique teinté d'arcadisme culmine dans l'air "Quid loqueris ad cor", qui se retrouvera paraphrasé dans celui de Nice "Digli che miri" on ne peut plus profane dans la Serenata a tre de 1718. Le ton est celui d'une vision théâtrale et décorative, avec un souci esthétique exacerbé. Moelleux délibéré du timbre, vocalises modulantes étendues dans les da capo, respect presque choquant des rythmes et du tempo. Ni Ephrikian, ni Hogwood n'auraient osé prendre l'Amen du Stabat en un véritable allegro brisant l'unité méditative. Pourtant, Vivaldi l'impose. Dans le Eja Mater, "Me sentire vim doloris fac" (fais-moi sentir ta douleur), verset 7 du Stabat, le "fac" est souligné, comme le ferait un Grand'Uomo d'un dramma per musica. L'espace sonore occupé par Il Seminario musicale qui ne joue qu'à un instrument par partie est également démonstratif. Les timbres se mêlent à la voix, l'enveloppent, ne font qu'un avec elle, guidant le contralto dans un processus tonal et esthétique utilisant des procédés proches de l'opéra, se laissant prendre au piège des apparences alors que les plans spirituels semblent fuir. Cette vision où l'ego de Vivaldi se fond dans des perspectives plus émotives que sacrées irrite et séduit à la fois. Mais elle est incontournable et aussi importante que celles d'Heynis et Bowman, qui restent pourtant plus proches de notre sensibilité. - Roger-Claude Travers
Technique : 9/10. Image transparente, précise et naturelle. Le positionnement de la voix est parfaitement stable et précis au milieu de la scène sonore. Beaucoup d'aération et de clarté.

"Le choc technique du moisde Diapason-Harmonie n°356 :

Harmonic Classics compte parmi cette minorité de producteurs qui persistent à penser que deux micros seulement, judicieusement placés, restent le meilleur moyen pour réussir une prise de son naturelle, avec une ambiance et une image sonores cohérentes. Que tous ceux qui en doutent encore écoutent ce merveilleux enregistrement. La voix de Gérard Lesne surgit dans l'espace, entre les deux enceintes. Sa position est si précise et stable qu'elle paraît presque palpable et les timbres sont rendus avec tant de délicate finesse qu'on a l'impression qu'il n'existe plus d'écran entre eux et nos oreilles. Amateurs d'effets Hi-Fi frelatés, s'abstenir. - Jean-Marie Piel

"10de Répertoire n° 21-2 :

Il y a quelques années, Lesne nous livrait un magistral recueil de Cantates Italiennes de Vivaldi. Aujourd'hui, il récidive dans un programme de musique sacrée qui comprend l'incontournable Stabat Mater : œuvre captivante, s'il en est, par son attendrissante étrangeté. Impossible du coup de ne pas se référer à l'extraordinaire version, intensément émouvante, de Bowman/Hogwood publiée en 1976. De toute évidence, les options interprétatives de chacun sont foncièrement différentes. Alors que Bowman cherche à nous séduire par un calme reposant et envoûtant d'une linéarité exemplaire, Lesne défend l'agitation interne, les contrastes et l'affection avec un sens remarquable de l'ornementation qui puise sa force dans la quintessence même de la poésie vocale. Ici, la musique ne s'écoule pas toujours avec fluidité. Le travail de la voix interpelle par de délicieuses aspérités, lentes et violentes, lyriques et véhémentes, hésitantes et fragiles. Le recours à un instrument par partie impose une vérité sans concession de la pratique instrumentale au XVIIIème siècle. Ce retour aux sources est clairvoyant, courageux par son "authenticité". Il nous fait expressément percevoir la richissime créativité du Prêtre Roux qui savait, avant l'heure, exprimer, d'une manière épurée, les indicibles méandres sentimentaux de l'âme humaine. Dans le Nisi Dominus, la ferveur religieuse s'exprime avec grâce. Lesne transcende la simple mélodie du texte. Le jeu de l'orgue positif est idéal par son dramatisme sombre et nostalgique. Le Mottetto RV 633 et le Filiae Maestae Jerusalem, plus rarement enregistrés, retrouvent le divin chemin de l'art sacré de Vivaldi tel qu'il faut le percevoir. La puissance du mot est empreinte d'une douleur rarement égalée. L'éclat baroque du travail de Lesne, et de son ensemble, est un atout indiscutable pour une version de référence de ces pièces sacrées et plus particulièrement pour le Stabat Mater. Elle est à mettre à égalité avec celle, moins contrastée, de Bowman qui se révèle encore aujourd'hui de toute beauté. - Philippe Demeure
Technique : 8/10. Timbres naturels. Excellente répartition des plans sonores. Prise de son très équilibrée et proche de la perception naturelle.

"un événement exceptionnelde Télérama n°2084 :

Ce n'est pas la première fois que cela se produit, mais comme cet enregistrement, par sa réussite, va attirer tous les regards, la vieille querelle qui oppose ceux qui acceptent à ceux qui refusent les voix d'hommes pour assurer les rôles de soprano ou de contralto dans ce genre de musique, risque de rebondir à nouveau...
Avoir confié à Gérard Lesne la partie de contralto de ces pièces m'apparaît d'autant moins "sacrilège" qu'elle répond indubitablement aux canons esthétiques exigés. En outre, si l'on compare cette nouvelle interprétation à certaines qui l'ont précédée, on savoure la musicalité très sûre de Lesne qui, intelligemment, laisse la bride sur le cou à la théâtralité dont ces pages, qu'on le veuille ou non, sont porteuses, et qui refuse tout pathos par trop suspect.
L'émotion? Oui, mais pas à n'importe quel prix. Idem pour la "spiritualité" qui ne doit pas patauger dans les eaux grises de la stérilité. Ici, tout vibre, tout scintille, tout étonne. Gérard Lesne et le merveilleux Seminario musicale chantent sans rien en dissimuler l'amour, la vie - et la mort. Et avec quel cran!
 - Paul Meunier
Technique : 5T 

"Recommandépar Classica n°18 :

... Quel magnifique cadeau que de retrouver ce label dépositaire de somptueux trésors! Vous pourrez désormais vous délecter de titres qui, lors de leur sortie, ont été unanimement salués et récompensés. Le programme consacré à Vivaldi par Gérard Lesne et Il Seminario musicale en reste sans aucun doute la perle incontestée. Aucune version du Stabat Mater RV 621 n'a égalé celle de Lesne. Finesse et sensibilité se retrouvent dans le Cum dederit du Nisi Dominus RV 608...

"Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros"
Selected by "La Discothèque Idéale" de Flammarion/Compact 
Selected by "Les Indispensables" du Guide Gourmand des Musiques à l'Ancienne 
Selected by "La Discothèque Classique en 500 CD" de Classica/RTL
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