This comprehensive Bridget St. John box set includes the three sensational albums recorded for Peel’s Dandelion label, plus live recordings and recordings made for the BBC between 1968 and 1972.
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)
When Sir Colin Davis was asked to select a composer to write a new work for his 80th birthday he chose James MacMillan, about to celebrate his own 50th birthday. MacMillan had previously considered writing a passion and used the opportunity of the commission to produce a setting based on the Gospel of St John.The result is a highly dramatic passion, fusing MacMillan's own Catholic faith, compositional style and musical influences with the long tradition of settings for the passion of Christ in both the Catholic and Lutheran faiths. In addition to the choir and orchestra, MacMillan uses a small choir of professional singers to provide the narration and a solitary baritone soloist to portray Christus.The work received its première on 27th April 2008 at the Barbican, in London, and follows the LSOLive release of two of James MacMillan's earlier works: The World's Ransoming and The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in January 2008.
…The performances, sung without a chorus but played with a string complement numbering 4-4-2-2-1, are, if not overwhelming, entirely convincing. The four soloists manage their roles admirably, and the recorded sound is excellent. (…) Incidentally, buried in the notes is an eye-popping statement that Montréal Baroque “has undertaken Bach’s complete cantatas in a pared-down version, with a one-per-part choir, as was the practice in Lutheran Germany of the time.” That would be a first, since all of the other complete and on-going series employ small choirs. There was no mention of boy sopranos.