Vivaldi’s setting of Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126 in the Vulgate) dates from fairly early on his career possibly for the Pietà which produced not only excellent singers but also superbly talented instrumentalists such as Anna Maria (1696–1782) and her successor as principal violinist, Chiaretta (1718–1796). It’s a long and very ambitious piece whose nine movements vary enormously in their style and scoring, it has two simple continuo arias (´‘Vanum est vobis’ and ‘Beatus vir’), one with string accompaniment in unison with the voice (‘Sicut sagittae’), two lively concerto church arias (‘Nisi Dominus’, and its reprise ‘Sicut erat in principio‘) and one (‘Cum dederit‘) that’s written in the slow siciliana style with chromatically ascending lines that Vivaldi often used to convey the idea of rest and sleep. It’s third movement (‘Surgite’) is an accompanied recitative in which Vivaldi juxtaposes rapid ascending figures with slow ones at ‘panem doloris’ but for me the heart of this piece lies in its ‘Gloria’ which instead of being the expected set of joyous exclamations is a marvellously dark and solitary passage that leads
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126), for voice, viola d’amore, strings & continuo in G minor, RV 608
|Performers:||Ensemble Matheus conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi|
|Soloist:||Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor)|
Text & Translation: Nisi Dominus RV608
Movement 1: Nisi Dominus
|Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum,|
in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem,
frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
|Unless the Lord builds a house,|
in vain do those who labour build it.
Unless the Lord guards a city,
futilely does he who watches guard it.
Movement 2: Vanum est vobis
|Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere.||It is pointless for you to get up early:|
Movement 3: Surgite
|surgite postquam sederitis,|
qui manducatis panem doloris.
|you get up before you have gone to bed,|
you who eat the bread of misery.
Movement 4: Cum dederit
|Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum:|
ecce haereditas Domini, filii:
merces, fructus ventris.
|For he has granted to those he loves rest:|
behold an inheritance from the Lord – sons:
a reward, the fruit of the womb.
Movement 5: Sicut sagittae
|Sicut sagittae in manu potentis:|
ita filii excussorum.
|Like arrows in the hand of powerful man:|
such are sons born in your youth.
Movement 6: Beatus vir
|Beautus vir qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis:|
non confundetur cum loquetur
inimicis suis in porta.
|Blessed is the man who has filled his desire with these;|
he will not be confounded when he speaks
with his enemies at the gate.
Movement 7: Gloria (Viola D’Amore)
|Gloria Patri et Filio,|
et Spiritui Sancto.
|Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,|
and to the Holy Spirit.
Movement 8: Sicut erat in principio
|Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper:|
et in saecula saeculorum.
|As it was in the beginning, both now and for ever: and for an age of ages.|
Movement 9: Amen