Movement 01: Sonoro modulamine – Gloria in excelsis Deo
Movement 02: Et in terra pax hominibus
Movement 03: Laudamus te
Movement 04: Gratias agimus tibi
Movement 05: Domine Deus, Rex caelestis
Movement 06: Domine Fili unigenite
Movement 07: Domine Deus, agnus Dei
Movement 08: Qui tollis peccata mundi
Movement 09: Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Movement 10: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
Movement 11: Cum Sancto Spiritu
The chronology of the two settings is disputed by scholars. Both manuscripts show clear evidence of reworking, probably over a period of several years. One thing is certain, however: whichever of the two was written first served as the model for the second. The two versions may have coexisted in the repertory of the Pietà for several years.
RV588 possesses a very unusual feature that may provide a reason for the slowness of its revival. Not only does it have a designated introductory motet (introduzione) for solo contralto, but this motet is actually dovetailed into it in an ingenious and radical way. The second and final aria of Jubilate, o amoeni chori is united in a single movement with the opening chorus of the Gloria. The celebratory text of the introduzione, paraphrasing Psalm 150, is non-specific enough to be suitable for any feast. The second aria invokes the sound of plucked (citharae) and bowed (lirae) stringed instruments, wind instruments (fistulae) and the organ (organa). Ostensibly praising God, it reminds the congregation of the virtuosity of the Pietà’s instrumentalists. Obligingly, the orchestra provides little touches of illustrative colour, the most conspicuous of which is a five-bar solo for obbligato organ.
Vivaldi reckoned with occasions on which the introduzione would be omitted. Crosses in his autograph score in Turin tell the copyist of the separate parts which passages of the third movement to leave out if the Gloria is to be performed ‘neat’. Leaving out the solo portions makes the movement too short, however, and this brutal solution is rarely adopted. Later in the decade Vivaldi wrote out a slightly modified vocal part for the introduzione, notating it in the soprano instead of the alto clef, even though the compass hardly changed. His purpose in preparing this new version (RV639a) seems merely to have been to make the part accessible to a singer more accustomed to read from the other clef.
The most impressive choral movement of RV588 is its second, ‘Et in terra pax’, an unhurried, chromatically-inflected chorus in B minor very similar in mood to its counterpart in RV589. Also worthy of mention are the short ‘Gratias agimus tibi’, with a startling enharmonic change in its second bar, the severe ‘Domine Fili unigenite’, which is possibly a borrowing from an older composer, the ‘Domine Deus, agnus Dei’, with its oboe obbligato, and the ‘Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris’, an aria for contralto in which a pair of solo violas accompanies a pair of solo violins in a chamber texture reminiscent of Mozart’s string quintets.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 2001