Música Callada (Music of Silence) is a very special work, one of the most beautiful and elusive in the entire piano repertoire. It is extremely difficult to perform. On the one hand, there’s the temptation to stretch each piece out hypnotically, if monotonously, while quicker speeds preserve the music’s melodic essence at the expense of much of its atmosphere and harmonic richness. For although much of the music is indeed quiet, and none of it moves quickly, it is all meaningful.
This recording was made as a result of the first modern production, which was presented in the same Florentine theater in which the opera had received its premiere. With an unusually convoluted plot, and lasting over three-and-a-half hours, its unlikely that Atenaide will ever make its way into the repertoire, but especially for the Vivaldi enthusiast and the lover of virtuosic Baroque vocal display, the opera should be very attractive. In the title role, Sandrine Piau sings with remarkable tonal purity, flexibility, and expressivity. The other women in the cast are worthy colleagues for Piau. Soprano Vivica Genaux, mezzo-sopranos Guillemette Laurens and Romina Basso, and, especially, contralto Nathalie Stutzman pour themselves fully into their roles, creating rounded, clearly differentiated characters, and they maintain the highest standards of vocal beauty and virtuosity. The men, tenors Paul Agnew and Stefano Ferrari, are out of their league in such stellar company; they don't lack the technical facility to manage the music, but their voices are small and tend to sound thin and underpowered. Federico Maria Sardelli leads Modo Antiquo in a delicate but spirited performance that is nicely nuanced, and gives the singers plenty of opportunity to be rhythmically free and expressive in the recitatives. Naïve's sound is immaculate, with a lively balance between the singers and instrumentalists.