Two arias include obbtigato instruments. The violin version of the better known setting of the same text with piano obbligato k505. It is the soprano version of the long aria sung by an mezzo or tenor Idamante in Idomeneo. While not quite as phenomenally beautiful as k505, it is both lively and demanding, requiring virtuoso contributions from conductor, orchestra, violinist and soprano. For k505, best that I have heard is Ameling/Dalton Baldwin/Edo de Waart (see my review). Hendricks/Tate/Jose Luis Garcia and the ECO are equally good in the violin setting.
Of all the laudatory epithets applicable to Barbara Bonney, “radiant” might not be the one that springs to mindat least, not insofar as it suggests the warm luxuriance of sunshine. Bonney’s light, bright lyric soprano is something else: a voice of delicate refinement and transparent, pure-toned beauty. But it’s capable of silkily seductive textures too; and there are wonderful examples on this compilation disc that, if featuring a less well-established artist, might qualify as a demo tape. Most of the tracks are previously issued but together they define her capabilities and home-base repertory, from Bach, Purcell and Mozart through to Scandinavian song and Richard Strauss. –Michael White .
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