Hyperion Records

Nisi Dominus, RV803
composer
author of text
Psalm 126

Recordings
'Vivaldi: Sacred Music, Vol. 10' (CDA66849)
Vivaldi: Sacred Music, Vol. 10
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66849  Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81  
'Vivaldi: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44171/81)
Vivaldi: The Complete Sacred Music
Buy by post £40.00 CDS44171/81  11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Details
Movement 1: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit
Track 13 on CDA66849 [1'28] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 13 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [1'28] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Nisi Dominus custodierit
Track 14 on CDA66849 [2'31] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 14 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [2'31] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 3: Vanum est vobis
Track 15 on CDA66849 [2'24] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 15 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [2'24] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 4: Cum dederit
Track 16 on CDA66849 [3'13] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 16 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [3'13] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 5: Sicut sagittae
Track 17 on CDA66849 [2'24] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 17 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [2'24] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 6: Beatus vir
Track 18 on CDA66849 [4'42] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 18 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [4'42] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 7: Gloria Patri
Track 19 on CDA66849 [3'47] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 19 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [3'47] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 8: Sicut erat in principio
Track 20 on CDA66849 [1'18] Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
Track 20 on CDS44171/81 CD11 [1'18] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Nisi Dominus, RV803
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‘What RV803?’, I hear someone asking. This magnificent work came to light just in time to serve as the keystone of the present series of CDs devoted to Vivaldi’s sacred vocal music, of which this disc is the final offering. In May 2003 I received a tip-off from the Australian musicologist Janice Stockigt that among the Galuppi sacred vocal works in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden that she was studying there was an anomalous Psalm setting, which contained obbligato parts for viola d’amore, chalumeau (‘salmò’ in Venetian dialect) and an instrument described as ‘tromba marina’ (which turns out to be not an actual trumpet marine but a ‘violino in tromba marina’, a violin with a modified bridge that causes it to sound like this bowed monochord). She suspected, absolutely correctly, that the ostensible composer, Baldassare Galuppi (whose name appears on the title-page of the score as ‘Buranello’, his nickname), was not the real composer, and wondered whether this Nisi Dominus in A major did not belong to an earlier period. I instantly had four thoughts: first, that only the Pietà (with which Galuppi had no known connection) would have used these instruments; second, that only Vivaldi would have had the audacity to use all three together; third, that among the set of Psalms that Vivaldi supplied to the Pietà in 1739 there was a ‘vacancy’ for a missing Psalm answering to the present description; fourth, that since the Beatus vir in its 1739 version (RV795) preserved in Dresden was wilfully misattributed to Galuppi by its Venetian copyist, Iseppo Baldan, notorious among scholars for his forged attributions, this might well be a companion piece from the same stable.

My subsequent work to authenticate the work as a composition by Vivaldi soon established that all of these hunches were correct. (Those who are interested can read an introductory article on it in the first issue of the new journal Eighteenth-Century Music, scheduled to appear in spring 2004.) This was indeed the last of the group of five Psalms for which Vivaldi was paid in 1739 to be identified (the other four are RV604, RV609, RV795 and the incompletely preserved RV789).

And what a work! Vivaldi scores it for three solo voices – soprano, contralto and ‘tenor’ (actually, a contralto whose part is written in the tenor clef) – and five obbligato instruments (in addition to the three mentioned above, solo cello and solo organ appear), with the usual strings and continuo. The setting allots a separate movement to each verse (of which there are six, plus the two for the Lesser Doxology). Its structure is almost perfectly symmetrical. The outer movements, based on common material, employ all three voices with orchestra. The second and sixth movements are for solo voice, one obbligato instrument (viola d’amore and cello, respectively) and continuo. The third and fifth movements are for solo voice and orchestra (with the ‘violino in tromba marina’ added in the latter case). The sensational fourth movement, the ‘calm at the heart of the storm’, is for one voice, obbligato chalumeau and a bass alternating between unison violins and unharmonized continuo. Even the key scheme, A–D–G–C–G–D–A, is symmetrical. This tidy order is broken, however, by the seventh movement, which is in a minor key (E minor) and is scored, like the fifth movement, for a solo voice, orchestra and an obbligato instrument (organ). The solo voices ‘progress’, as the composition unfolds, from alto (movements 2 to 4) to ‘tenor’ (movement 5) and finally soprano (movements 6 to 7).

This ‘second’ Nisi Dominus by Vivaldi (the first is the familiar RV608, in G minor) is easily the most attractive work in the 1739 set. It shows how thoroughly Vivaldi was influenced, during the 1730s, by the dominant galant style, and how enterprising he continued to be, even at the very end of his career, in his choice of instrumental colours. This is truly his ‘swan song’ for the Pietà.

from notes by Michael Talbot © 2004

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDA66849 track 14
Nisi Dominus custodierit
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-04-84914
Duration
2'31
Recording date
1 November 2003
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Vivaldi: Sacred Music, Vol. 10 (CDA66849)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: February 2004
    Deletion date: August 2012
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44171/81
  2. Vivaldi: The Complete Sacred Music (CDS44171/81)
    Disc 11 Track 14
    Release date: October 2005
    11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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