17 September 2009

La Serennissima

Venice is, of course, La Serennissima, although you may not think that as the rain tumbles down and the acqua alta is threatening. But so it is for music. There are multiple concerts every night of the most popular and gentle musics around: Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Albinoni and the like. And so we attended one, along with some of the many tourists infesting this town.

The quartet was the Ensemble Antonio Vivaldi and they performed in Chiesa di San Giacometto. It’s reputed to the oldest church in Venice (or at least there’s been a church on this spot the longest time), located just 100 metres form the Ponte Rialto, with a clock tower that is a subject of derision for never having kept decent time. Inside, it’s a mix of bare and exhuberant and with decent acoustics.

The ensemble was a string quartet with a lyric soprano for about half the tunes. The tunes were recognisable; immensely attractive, sweet and lyrical. It’s a period music that still enthralls, although it’s hardly at the limits. But so lovely, and so big in an acoustic space like this. It seems the program is more steady than the ensemble. I collected a brochure that lists alternating concerts of this program and Vivaldi’s Four seasons. It’s a similar program to that in at least two other locations we’ve passed in walking through Venice. I felt the changing players showed in not sitting quite comfortably. Sometimes intonation was testing, the first and second violins seemed to not merge tonally, the soprano was too big and uneven and overwhelmed the strings, and the acoustics weren’t quite the ringing clarity of some such spaces. But I quibble. Everyone enjoyed it, obviously including the musicians. The music was delightful and the rain had stopped. So all was well. The spot I most enjoyed was some particularly rapid playing by the cello, I think on Vivaldi’s Concerto in Sol min (G minor), where he played long rapidly falling triplet lines. I particularly enjoyed listening to the cello. He seemed very steady and at home, and it was interesting to listen to the bass role at this stage of development. The violins were expressive and high and expressive. I lost the viola a little, but my guess it’s the fate suffered by this instrument being sandwiched between the prominent violins and the solid cello. Altos in choirs tell me they suffer a similar fate.

So a lovely evening, eminently serene, a stage away from the jazz I more often attend, and a perfect accompaniment to some days in Venice. The quartet was Constantin Beschieru (first violin), Marco Toso (second violin), Barbara Zennaro (viola), Antonio Folligioni (cello) and Sara Pretegiani (soprano). The music was by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Albinoni, Pachelbel, Mozart and Verdi. This program (musiche di Vivalsi, Mozart, Pachelbel, Verdi) is performed Wednesdays and Sundays, and Four seasons, Pachelbel’s Canon and Albinoni’s Adagio Fridays. It’s a good thing, and you know what to do when you’re on a good thing.

  • www.ensembleantoniovivaldi.com

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