American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux is a do-or-die, full-fat artist whose passion for Italian baroque is the white-hot zeal of an evangelist. Hommage à Vivaldi explores an intriguing mixture of solo cantatas and larger-scale choral works. The concept may be tenuous – Genaux, who recorded this disc in Vienna, imagines a scenario where Vivaldi became Kapellmeister of the city’s Cathedral – but the music gathered under this flimsy counter-factual umbrella is excellent.
Most interesting are two less familiar works, solo cantatas In Turbato Mare Irato and Sum in Medio Tempestatum. Both dramatise the Christian believer vividly, tossed on a sea of semiquaver doubt. Genaux’s coloratura has lost none of its clarity, cutting crisply through Dubrovsky’s characterful string texture, charged with electric energy, tone fizzing with interest.
But she’s almost more impressive when the showmanship stops. The massive seven-minute Semper maesta, sconsolata from Sum in Medio is one simple, unbroken line of melody. Genaux toys with her listener, fluttering trills with butterfly lightness, and compressing all her dark, exciting sound into the narrowest of compasses. The effect, mirrored in the Cum dederit of the Nisi Dominus and elsewhere, is magical.
The Wiener Kammerchor provide efficient support in the choral numbers, notably the Crucifixus from the Credo in E Minor, which is exquisitely eerie and unsettling.