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.
Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Roman Catholic hymn to Mary. It has been variously attributed to the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi and to Innocent III. There are two Stabat Mater hymns, one the Stabat Mater Dolorosa is about the Sorrows of Mary, the other, Stabat Mater Speciosa joyfully refers to the Nativity of Jesus. The title of the sorrowful hymn is an incipit of the first line, Stabat mater dolorosa ("The sorrowful mother stood"). The joyful hymn refers to "The beautiful mother stood". The Dolorosa hymn, one of the most powerful and immediate of extant medieval poems, meditates on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ's mother, during his crucifixion. It is sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows…
"The latest Vivaldi recording on Naïve…focuses on sacred works: the Stabat Mater (RV 621) and Nisi Dominus (RV 608), both performed with potent expression by the fine period group Ensemble Matheus, led by Jean-Christophe Spinosi.
Vivaldi, also a priest, wrote the Nisi Dominus for the Ospedale Della Pietà in Venice, where he taught orphaned girls the violin. The countertenor Philippe Jaroussky wields his sweet-toned, radiant voice to emotive effect, displaying both a rapid-fire coloratura technique and a poignant, lyrical expressiveness, particularly haunting in “Cum dederit.”
In the more austere Stabat Mater, Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings with a gripping sense of drama, her darkly rich, agile contralto illuminating the text with anguish and passion.
The Ensemble Matheus plays with vigorous flair and sharply etched dynamic contrasts. Its crisp period approach sounds alternately fiery and gently warm, with dramatic explosions of color in “Surgite postquam” and almost inaudible whisperings at the beginning of “Cum dederit.”
The disc also includes a Crucifixus from a Credo attributed to Vivaldi (RV 592), a moving duet reminiscent of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater."– Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
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.