Don’t let the title mislead you. Yes, “Venetian Christmas” is a compilation of music that was played during the Christmas season in Venice during the 1750’s. But there’s nothing that would make it sound “seasonal” to modern ears.
Many of the selections feature the psaltery, an ancestor of the hammered dulcimer. The soft, warm tones of the struck psaltery strings give the music a different cast then that of a harpsichord’s harsher plucked-strong sound.
Works by Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi make up much of the program (as they probably did in Venetian concerts of the day). Also included is a concerto grosso by Torelli and a sonata for psaltery by Fulgenzio Perotti, a composer and psaltery teacher.
This is a beautifully recorded SACD that takes full advantage of the technology. The psaltery is a soft-spoken instrument, and Komalé Akakpo’s expressive playing makes it sound luminous. Soprano Ruby Hughes sings Hasse’s Alma Redemptoris Mater and Vivaldi’s Salve Regina with warmth and sensitivity.
And the SACD preserves the fine details of violinist Ewa Golínska delicate phrasing and gives the ensemble sound of the Arte dei Suonatori real depth. I didn’t receive this recording for review until well after Christmas. But no matter. It was a pleasure to listen to then, and I anticipate it will continue to be in late summer. This is one seasonal disc that is anything but.
Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Adolph Hasse, Fulgenzio Perotti, Giuseppe Torelli
Ewa Golínska, violin; Komalé Akakpo, psaltery; Ruby Hughes, soprano; Arte dei Suonatori; Martin Gester,conductor
BIS 2089 SACD