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.
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.
Conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini's historical-instrument recordings of Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque composers, originally recorded around the turn of the millennium for the Opus 111 label, are being reissued on Naïve, complete with the fashion-forward graphics for which that label is known. Any and all remain completely distinctive, but this all-Vivaldi disc makes perhaps the ideal place to start.
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.
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
"L’Inimico delle Donne" which means someone who doesn’t like women, is an opera written by Galuppi in 1771. He was very well-known at this time but when he died, suddenly his works disappeared from the stages. Among them ”L’Inimico delle Donne” disappeared so well that nobody knew it existed. Hence it has never been played since its first venue in Venice in 1771. Some years ago its manuscript was found in Lisbon and Royal Opéra de Wallonie decided to recreate and to stage it.
This isn't the 'Vivaldi Vespers', or even a reconstruction of a specific event, but a kind of 'sacred concert' in Vespers form, of the sort that Venetian churches in Vivaldi's time would mount in the name of worship.
Whether he ever supplied all the music for any such occasion isn't clear, but he certainly set plenty of Vespers texts, enough at any rate for Rinaldo Alessandrini and scholar Frédéric Delaméa to put together this rich programme.
Understandably, Poulenc's Gloria and Stabat Mater have almost invariably been coupled together on LPs and CDs. Similarly scored for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra, the two works are arguably the twin peaks of Poulenc's sacred music, that is, they are irresistibly melodic, energetically rhythmic, directly emotional, conservatively harmonic, and fervently religious. That said, however, the difference in tone between the two works is as striking as their similarities. Where the Gloria is light, bright, and at times even funny, the Stabat Mater, as befits its subject matter, is dark, heavy, and always deeply sorrowful. In this pair of performances with Georges Prêtre leading the Orchestre National de France and the French Radio Choir from the '80s, both works are given the deluxe French treatment. Prêtre is as skilled at balancing his forces as he is at keeping the music moving, and, as importantly, he is as capable of expressing the Gloria's joyous wit as he is of articulating the Stabat Mater's profound suffering. But the real star of these performances is American soprano Barbara Hendricks whose clear, warm voice and excellent diction breath vibrant life into all Poulenc's glorious melodies.