Movement 01: Beatus vir
Movement 02: Gloria et divitiae
Movement 03: Beatus vir
Movement 04: Exortum est in tenebris
Movement 05: Beatus vir
Movement 06: Iucundus homo
Movement 07: Beatus vir
Movement 08: In memoria aeterna
Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto), Hilary Summers (alto), Alexandra Gibson (contralto), The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 09: Beatus vir
Movement 10: Paratum cor eius
Movement 11: Beatus vir
Movement 12: Dispersit, dedit pauperibus
Movement 13: Beatus vir
Movement 14: Peccator videbit
Movement 15: Gloria Patri, et Filio
The concordances in Venice and Turin, as well as the totally Vivaldian style of the work, would probably have sufficed by themselves to confirm the Dresden score of RV795 as authentic in all respects. However, added support comes from the fact that the manuscript was prepared by the Venetian music-copying firm of Iseppo Baldan, notorious among musicologists (especially Haydn scholars) for the exceptionally large number of deliberately misattributed works among its products. Baldan’s copying shop supplied the Dresden court, in the decades immediately following Vivaldi’s death in 1741, with large quantities of sacred vocal works by Galuppi; one can easily imagine that this Beatus vir, whose autograph manuscript it had perhaps acquired from the composer’s estate via Vivaldi’s nephews (who were themselves professional copyists with links to Baldan), was ‘slipped in’ under the younger composer’s name to make up the numbers.
Close examination shows that RV597 and RV795 go back to a common archetype, a setting of the Beatus vir for single choir and orchestra that Vivaldi probably wrote during the 1710s. RV597, prepared in the 1720s, is an adaptation for male voices in which the ensemble is expanded to include a second choir and orchestra. RV795 retains the single ensemble, replaces selected movements by others written in a galant style, and casts aside the solo bass in favour of a ‘pseudo bass’ singing in the alto register. The last-mentioned change is most evident in the terzet ‘In memoria aeterna’, where the second contralto doubles the instrumental bass an octave above, producing a novel style of part-writing. The tenor required in the same terzet and in the ‘Peccator videbit’ movement was presumably Ambrosina (born circa 1710), famous for her deep voice.
The differences between RV597 and RV795 mirror those between the middle (RV610) and late (RV611) versions of the Magnificat. Baldan’s copyist probably worked directly from the composer’s autograph manuscript, in which the second movement (similar to the one found in RV597 but not including the repetitions of phrases assigned to the second coro) had evidently not been deleted or removed when its intended replacement was inserted. Consequently, the Dresden source innocently transmits two separate versions of the ‘Gloriae et divitiae’ movement: one going back to the lost archetype and the other dating from the late 1730s.
Because of the stylistic gap between old and new elements, RV795 offers a fascinating glimpse of evolving musical practice at the Pietà and of its ageing composer’s attempts to keep his style up-to-date.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 2000