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.
Three contrasting versions of the 'Stabat Mater', all most attractive and all composed within 20 years, in the second half of the 18th century. These excellent performances under Daniel Cuiller's direction are also all first recordings - and for Abos and Gasparini, first entries in the CD catalogue. An enterprising release, of great interest.
Jochen Kowalski is one of the most charismatic and successful male altos of our time and has built up an unusually and wide-ranging and extensive repertoire. It is the dramatic quality of his voice which makes it special.
Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti (1706 - 1787) lived a large part of his life in Pisa, Italy, where he was director of music of the cathedral. Though he composed operas as well as other works he composed mainly for the church. According to the musicologist Paolo Peretti his Stabat Mater was more or less copied , in 1825, by Antonio Brunetti, probably a nephew of his, who changed some things, replaced three sections by his own and sold it as his own work: "Stabat Mater all'imitazione del'esimio Sig.Pergolesi". From this we might conclude that in fact Giovanni Gualberto himself had already made an imitation of Pergolesi's. Especially the first four parts have indeed a strong resemblance. Nevertheless, though Giovanni took Pergolesi's as an example, his contribution to the music is such, that it surely can be regarded as a work of his own. In this respect it is interesting too, to notice that he used a different text than Pergolesi.
Boccherini wrote very little vocal music; however he left two settings of the Stabat mater. It was first set in 1781 for solo soprano and strings and then in 1800 for two sopranos and tenor, obviously influenced by the hugely-popular Pergolesi Stabat mater of 1736. There are many similarities in the notation and harmony—even the same key of F minor is used. The writing is of extraordinary individuality and seems to come straight from the heart. This unjustly neglected piece is surely one of the most remarkable sacred compostions of the era.
Emanuele d'Astorga was one of the most colourful figures in early eighteenth-century music and his life has often been the subject of legend rather than fact (brief details of which can be discovered in Robert King's illuminating booklet notes). During his life, Astorga was best known for his well-written and tuneful chamber cantatas (of which more than 150 survive) and his opera Dafni (only Act 1 now survives). But by far his most enduring work has proved to be this setting of the Stabat mater, his only surviving sacred composition. Throughout it we hear Astorga's gift for writing warm melodies, typical of the Neapolitan style of the time, and how he captures the melancholy of this most desolate of sacred texts.
This Septem verba a Christo in cruce moriente proloata (The Seven Words of the Dying Christ on the Cross) was rediscovered nearly a century ago, and scholars down through the years have reached differing conclusions as to whether or not the work was really by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, as one manuscript claimed. More and more copies surfaced, and finally the discovery by musicologist Reinhard Fehling of a new set of parts at an Austrian monastery in 2009 showed that the work was at the very least popular over a good part of Europe, and the forces represented here gave the work its modern-day premiere performance and first recording. You can see why some were skeptical of Pergolesi's authorship, for it doesn't sound much like his more famous Stabat Mater or like anything by anybody else, either. The closest parallel would be Bach's so-called dialogue cantatas, with soloists representing Christ and the soul. The work is Bachian in another way, too, with a set of hidden symmetries and apparent meanings outlined in the album notes. It consists of seven aria pairs, with a few of the arias prefaced by accompanied recitatives. Each of the pairs represents one of the seven last words of Christ on the cross, with Christ (a bass in all cases except for the second "word," where he is a tenor) setting out the basic meaning and the Soul (a soprano, alto, or tenor) providing a kind of emotional reaction that is closely related, both musically and conceptually, to Christ's aria. It's thus a tightly constructed, rather intellectual piece, atypical of Pergolesi. The orchestral writing, featuring horns, trumpet, harp, and lute, is also unlike anything else in Pergolesi's oeuvre. But the work is successful on its own terms, and it receives a fine performance here from conductor René Jacobs, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and an impressive quartet of soloists. This odd piece isn't going to displace the Stabat Mater from the top rank of Pergolesi's work, but it adds substantially to the picture of his genius.(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.
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