Movement 01: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Movement 02: Et in terra pax
Movement 03: Laudamus te
Movement 04: Gratias agimus tibi
Movement 05: Propter magnam gloriam tuam
Movement 06: Domine Deus, rex caelestis
Movement 07: Domine Fili unigenite
Movement 08: Domine Deus, agnus Dei
Movement 09: Qui tollis peccata mundi
Movement 10: Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Movement 11: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
Movement 12: Cum Sancto Spiritu
RV589 typifies what the Pietà understood as a concertato setting of a long liturgical text. Each sentence or comparable unit generates a separate musical movement, and the movements are differentiated among themselves to the maximum extent in scoring, tonality, metre, tempo, style, texture and mood. Some movements employ solo voices, alone or in small groups, while others (in particular, the movements framing the work) employ choir. Rather exceptionally for Vivaldi, one movement of the present Gloria, the ‘Domine Deus, agnus Dei’, features both a solo singer (mezzo soprano) and the choir, which are treated in responsorial style. Generally speaking, however, Vivaldi and his north Italian contemporaries liked to segregate solo and choral singing in separate movements.
The rousing opening movement, ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’, is not mere ‘noise and thunder’; in the middle of it Vivaldi embarks on a bold tonal excursion that takes him as far as C sharp minor, a key rather remote from the initial D major. But how deftly the composer finds his way back to the tonic! Sophisticated handling of key change rises to new heights in the long, complex and emotionally harrowing second movement, ‘Et in terra pax’. What Vivaldi expresses here is not peace already achieved but peace desperately sought amid the troubles of the world. This would be the movement with which to convince a sceptic that, for all his outward wordliness, the composer was at heart – if only via music – a deeply spiritual person. Incredibly, Vivaldi originally ended this B minor movement with a major chord (a tierce de Picardie), before very wisely thinking better of the idea.
There follow a delightful duet for sopranos (‘Laudamus te’), a sombre chorus in the stile antico (‘Gratias agimus tibi’), the ‘Domine Deus, rex coelestis’ mentioned earlier, a captivating chorus in dotted, or ‘French’, rhythm (‘Domine Fili unigenite’), a pensive dialogue for contralto and chorus (‘Domine Deus, agnus Dei’), another sombre chorus (‘Qui tollis’), and a ‘church aria’ for contralto (‘Qui sedes’) heralding the return of the opening material. This duly arrives in the ‘Quoniam’ chorus, which is a simplified (non-modulating) version of the opening movement. The scene is set for the final fugue, which (as in RV588) is an adaptation of its counterpart in a Gloria dated 1708 by Giovanni Maria Ruggieri, of which more later.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 2004