musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Vivaldi: Stabat mater (RV 621); Nisi Dominus (RV 608); Longe mala, umbrae, terrores (RV 629)

David Daniels (alto)
Europa Galante
Dir: Fabio Biondi
rec: August 2001, New York, American Academy of Arts and Letters
Virgin Classics - 5 45474 2 (55'25")

I have never really been able to understand why people are so excited about David Daniels. His recent performances in Handel's Giulio Cesare in Amsterdam nor this recording have been able to make me change my mind. I wonder why so few seem to notice some serious flaws in his singing. Apart from a very annoying vibrato and a sound which reminds me too much of a female contralto, his articulation and diction leaves something to be desired. His pronunciation of Latin isn't perfect by any means: in particular the vowels don't sound "open" enough. And when he sings a long melisma, the sound of the vowel is changing somewhere in the middle. He starts with an "a" and changes it into something like "".

In this recording he is at his best in the first, highly dramatic aria of the motet Longe mala, umbrae, terrores and in some verses of Nisi Dominus. But I find the expression in the Stabat mater pretty poor. When I compare his interpretation with that of 'good old' James Bowman, JB wins hands down. The most interesting aspect of this recording is the playing of Europa Galante. It is very expressive, and sometimes revealing details of the music I didn't notice before. In Nisi Dominus for instance, one hears the arrows fly and hit the mark in 'Sicut sagittae': "Like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the outcast". But on other occasions the sometimes wild ornaments are missing the mark by a mile and are apparently played for their own sake.

So this is a "hit and miss" recording of three great works. It is certainly an interesting recording, but - at least for me - not a satisfying one. If I want to me moved by Vivaldi's Stabat mater, I return with joy to James Bowman. I doubt that his moving performance will be surpassed in the near future.

Johan van Veen ( 2002)

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