This is yet another perfectly sublime recording of Vivaldi's religious music for vocals and strings from violinist Fabio Biondi and his ensemble Europa Galante, a worthy successor to their wonderful 2002 recording of Vivaldi's "Stabat Mater/Nisi Dominus/Longe Mala" featuring the extraordinary countertenor David Daniels. This time Biondi has landed the considerable talents of soprano Patrizia Ciofi, whose energetic coloratura was most recently heard on the stylish "Handel Operatic Duets (Amor e gelosia)" disc with mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato and the splendid René Jacobs-produced recording of Mozart's "La Nozze di Figaro". It's worth noting that Daniels, Ciofi, Biondi and Europa Galante are teamed up on the upcoming recording of Vivaldi's "Bajazet".
Even though this disc is subtitled "Motets", technically the first piece, "Laudate pueri Dominum," is not a motet but an extended psalm, and even more surprising is the fact that it is a lively, challenging 23-minute work consisting of ten diverse movements, all of which Ciofi tackles with great skill. Her fiery bravura is especially evident in the opening allegro and returns toward the end in a repeat of the same movement. This provides an effective contrast to her appropriately mournful tone on "Excelsus super omnes," where she is accompanied by a somber obbligato trombone, and the beautiful legato she displays on "Gloria Patri et Filio". Ciofi shows powerfully expressed fury on both "In furore giustissimae irae" and "In turbato mare irato", the opening arias of the second and third motets, without sacrificing the inherent warmth of her voice. In contrast, she sounds joyful with great abandon on the opening aria of the last motet, "O qui coeli terraeque serenitas". The largos, "Tunc meus fletus" from "In furore..." and "Rosa quae moritur" from "O qui coeli..." both contain a melting quality that is at once inspirational and passionate, The larghetto "Resplende, bella" from "In turbato..." is arguably the disc's high point, a sensitive performance that shows off Ciofi's amazing breath control and dramatic acumen. This is lovely, hypnotic work, almost too beautiful for the deeply religious lyrics performed, with stellar performances all around.