This disc is a tour de force, a world premiere recording of stunning music splendidly performed. The unjustly obscure Antonio Maria Bononcini was appointed late in life to be maestro di cappella in Modena, a post which allowed him to pour his store of invention into two grand sacred works, a Mass and a Stabat Mater. Conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini engages deeply with the composer’s imagination, opening up his dense counterpoint and delicately binding together his vocal and obbligato lines. The musical rhetoric of the Concerto Italiano is spellbinding, particularly when band and singers heighten gestures to surge powerfully towards a passage’s final cadence. However heated their delivery becomes – and the Stabat Mater does sizzle – the artists never rush. This is particularly crucial for bringing out Bononcini’s modulations and textures, which, because they shift rapidly, need space to breathe.
This anthology of devotional music from 18th-century Venice and Naples offers an interesting and varied programme. Best known is Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, but the settings by Domenico Scarlatti and Bononcini stand well in comparison. The motets by Lotti, Caldara and Alessandro Scarlatti are real discoveries; Norrington’s performances of the latter are particularly fine. Guest’s Pergolesi suffers from a focus of sound which makes the interpretation seem somewhat generalised. However, all these performances give pleasure, while the music is melodically fresh and rhythmically vital.-Terry Barfoot
The legendary Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was born 300 years ago, in 1710. To mark the anniversary, Naïve re-issues three renowned recordings to feature his choral music, in a specially-priced box set, headed by the Gramophone award-winning version of his Stabat Mater by Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano, considered one of the best ever recorded…
Also featured in the bargain “3 for the price of 1” set are other short pieces by Pergolesi, plus more by Alessandro Scarlatti and Leonardo Leo.
Antonio Vivaldi's probably early Nisi Dominus, RV 608, and Stabat Mater, RV 621, both for solo voice and ensemble, have received several top-notch recordings, so the listener can pick on the basis of voice type and stylistic preference. Countertenor David Daniels has essayed the pair with Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante ensemble, and you can hear the preternaturally rich contralto Sara Mingardo in a reading with the fiery Italian Baroque specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini. Here you get a countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, in the Nisi Dominus and a female contralto, Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux, in the Stabat Mater. The pairing robs the whole of unity at one level, but makes musical sense; the Nisi Dominus is a more athletic work that benefits from the power of the male voice, while the Stabat Mater, especially in Vivaldi's truncated and highly dramatic setting, may require the audience to identify with a female singer. In the event, Jaroussky is nothing short of sublime in slow sections like the "Cum dederit" (track 4), a masterpiece of quiet tension whose effects are amplified by the extreme, almost respiratory sensitivity of the Ensemble Matheus under director Jean-Christophe Spinosi. Hardly less effective is Lemieux, with an extremely emotional reading in which she seems to mean every word. A bonus on this disc not present on the others is a little Crucifixus from the Credo in G major, RV 592, featuring both singers and well placed in the middle of the program. Superb examples of Baroque vocal art all around, with sound that captures the subtlety and the full dynamic range of the music, which at times gets very hushed indeed.(James Manheim)
Allegri's early Baroque masterpiece Miserere from around 1630 movingly juxtaposes modal chant with tonality, and was so popular that the Vatican refused to allow it to be performed anywhere else - until the 14 year old Mozart broke the Vatican's monopoly by writing it down from memory after attending a performance. Pergolesi's late Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater for soprano and alto dates from 1736, the year of his death at the age of 26. It was originally written for male voices but since it's hard to find a castrato these days, it's generally performed by two women or by a female soprano and counter-tenor. This performance uses a female alto but in other respects it's very much a period performance - the sound is intimate and the tempos are lively without any sacrifice of spiritual depth. The soloists, soprano Monika Frimmer and alto Gloria Banditelli, sing beautifully without overdoing the vibrato, and their voices are well matched. The disk also contains a brief "Sonata a quattro" by Vivaldi, and another setting of the Stabat Mater, by the late Baroque composer Antonio Caldara from around 1725.(Kenneth Dorter)
The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ's mother during his crucifixion. Its author may be either the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III. The title comes from its first line, Stabat Mater dolorosa, which means "the sorrowful mother was standing". The hymn is sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Stabat Mater has been set to music by many Western composers.