- Salve Regina, antiphon for voice, double chorus, 2 recorders, flute, double strings & continuo in C minor, RV 616
- Stabat Mater, hymn for voice, strings & continuo in F minor, RV 621
- Viola d'Amore Concerto, for viola d'amore, strings & continuo in D minor, RV 394
- Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126), for voice, viola d'amore, strings & continuo in G minor, RV 608
- Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126), for voice, viola d'amore, strings & continuo in G minor, RV 608: [Excerpt]
- Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126), for voice, viola d'amore, strings & continuo in G minor, RV 608: Gloria (Nisi Dominus)
Spanish countertenor Carlos Mena is not one of those who evoke the powerful castrati who might have sung these sacred arias in Vivaldi's day; his voice is smooth and precise, with a tendency toward emotional restraint. This isn't blood-and-guts Vivaldi, but it's quite lovely. Even the final "Nisi dominus, RV 608," with its virtuoso arias and sharp contrasts, is kept under control at all times rather than being treated as a set of operatic numbers. Mena is technically flawless in this work (listen to the rather chilling long notes in the "Cum dederit dilectis," track 22), which stands somewhat apart from the rest of the program -- the intent is to close the proceedings with a burst of energy after two sad pieces that offer refined tragedy in Mena's readings. A viola d'amore concerto, also in a minor key, provides an intermezzo. Mena's performance of Vivaldi's "Stabat Mater, RV 621," is remarkable from start to finish, with an exquisite depiction of quiet weeping from Mena in the opening "Stabat mater" section (track 7). The Ricercar Consort under Philippe Pierlot provides quiet, luminous support for both Mena and viola d'amore soloist François Fernandez in the concerto, and the recording environment in a Belgian abbey is ideal for what Mena is trying to convey -- sheer beauty with the ease and perfection of one of Raphael's religious paintings. Strongly recommended for anyone who loves the countertenor voice, especially for its haunting sadness.