- Conductor: Estevan Velardi
- Audio CD (May 26 2017)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Brilliant Classics
- ASIN: B01MTEWELC
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Antonio Maria Bononcini: Stabat Mater
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Pergolesi is the author of the most famously affecting setting of the 12th-century hymn by Jacopone di Todi in which Mary is depicted at the foot of the cross, mourning the death of her son in graphically detailed poetry which has been a gift to musicians ever since. In fact Brilliant Classics has collected up all the versions of Stabat mater by composers of any renown from the last 600 years and issued them in a brand-new all-inclusive release. Within that release is a new recording of the Stabat mater by Antonio Maria Bononcini, who died just a decade before Pergolesi. Their settings are on a roughly similar scale, though Bononcini’s is slightly grander, using four singers to Pergolesi’s two, and dividing the text into even more sections. Bononcini himself should not be confused with his father Giovanni Maria (composer and violinist) or indeed his brother Giovanni, all three of them outstanding composers of the Modenese school. Antonio made his name in Vienna, where he was appointed composer to the court of Emperor Joseph I in 1710, and one may hear why from the restrained pathos of this Stabat mater, with its slowly-modulating grand choruses of great tension and its arias which suspend time with contemplation of a particular aspect of Christ’s agony on the Cross. The Stabat mater is complemented here by a much less-familiar sacred cantata, Dio e la vergine: an anonymous six-movement text in which Mary stands before her Lord and proclaims her love for him, and He for her; a surprisingly common trope of 18th-century oratorios where God himself was given a part. The only other recording of this cantata is considerably older in style; this new one is made by the stylish Alessandro Stradella Consort, who produced for Brilliant the well-received recording of an oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti, San Filippo Neri (BC94037).
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Vivaldi's setting of 1712 is the earliest of his vocal compositions with a verifiable date. The text describes the sorrows of the Mother of Jesus standing at the foot of the Cross. It's worth reading through the whole poem before or while listening to a performance, any performance. Even a stern non-believer will be moved by the devotional pathos of it, and if you can read Latin, you'll find that it is a marvel of evocative verse. Vivaldi composed it almost certainly to be sung by a male alto, and not necessarily a castrato since 'falsettists' were more commonly employed as altos.
This performance by Andreas Scholl and Ensemble 415 is my current favorite of many excellent performances. It seems to me to have the best overall balance of lovely and expressive singing, elegant instrumental passagework, and tight ensemble. The performance by Michael Chance is sung superbly, but the instrumental support from Trevor Pinnock's English Consort isn't as tight. The performance by David Daniels has the opposite weakness; the instrumental contributions of Fabio Biondi's Europa Galante are sublime, probably the best on any CD, but Daniels has "holes in his game" on this recording. Philippe Jaroussky, probably my favorite male soprano these days, seems not quite suited to this particular piece, though his performance with Ensemble Matheus is certainly of interest. Kevin Mellon sings the role fairly well on a bargain recording from Aradia Ensemble.
That makes five male altos, all of them offering excellent accounts of the piece. There are also two recordings worth hearing by women altos: Sara Mingardo with Concerto Italiano, and Catherine Robbin with Les Violins du Roy. I esteem Mingardo and Alessandrini's Concerto Italian quite highly, but on this music, for my ears, the woman's more 'operatic' voice just doesn't quite serve.
There's one more male contralto performance that merits mention. The original CD is not available, but the recording is #36 of the 40 CDs in the Vivaldi Masterworks box. The performance is by Sytse Buwalda, with the Netherlands Bach Collegium. It's a strong performance by Buwalda, whose lower range suits the Stabat Mater perfectly.
I'm planning to work through the other Stabat Maters mentioned above in later reviews. Stay tuned! By the way, I'm not at all sure that SACD technology adds musical values to this performance. I suppose it would depend a good deal on your system and on your acoustical space, but in my music room I have to turn the extra speakers off to avoid "fill."