Baroque music is not the usual province of soprano Anna Netrebko, or contralto Marianna Pizzolato, or conductor Antonio Pappano, or the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma, so the listener might approach this tribute to the 300th anniversary of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi with some skepticism, but the performers do a terrific job. The orchestra uses modern instruments, so this is never going to be mistaken for a recording by Baroque specialists, but everyone involved approaches the challenge with such sensitivity and such evident excitement that listeners who don't demand absolute adherence to cutting-edge developments in early music practice are likely to be swept up.
Certainly the somber beauty of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and strings has a lot to do with its popularity. But it must be said that the story of the 26-year-old composer completing the work on his deathbed has always been too romantic for the public–or the music business–to resist. "The instant his death was known," wrote the famous 18th-century traveler Dr. Burney, "all Italy manifested an eager desire to hear and possess his productions." And so it's been ever since. In spite of the competition already on the market, it seems Decca just had to get its prize lyric soprano and hotshot young countertenor together to record the piece. –Matthew Westphal
This release is dedicated to some of the most famous settings of the Stabat mater, revealing the genre's varying treatment by composers over the centuries. From Palestrina's effective use of polyphony to Pergolesi's unusually sparse instrumental accompaniment, we move forward in time to contributions by Vivaldi and Haydn. These compositions rank among some of the most famous and affective music ever composed.
When these recordings first came out, far in advance of the period instrument revolution, they were revelations. Though modern instruments were used, there was an effort to get performance practices right… And there was the incredibly powerful, absolutely heavenly sound of that chorus of men and boys, as well as the lifelike recordings that perfectly captured the vast space of the Chapel of King's College. Since that time there have been other performances that depict the letter of each work to a greater degree than these, but many listeners will argue that there are none that have better encapsulated the spirit of this music… These are star-studded "great singing" recordings in which the artists will be remembered as much as the music itself.
New love, position, power, revenge, disguise, mistaken identity, complications and passionate devotion the full spectrum of baroque opera seria is here in this brilliant, vivid setting of a powerful and moving story.
Pergolesi - a musical genius cut off in his prime. Famed for his Stabat Mater, even though he died aged just 26 he had already completed four opera seria; Adriano in Siria is the third of these. Composing for only around a decade before he succumbed to tuberculosis aged 26, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was so well known for his music that the instant that his death was known, all Italy manifested an eager desire to hear and possess his productions …