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
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 is the simply a slpendid recording- well paced, energetic and in excellent sound. I have a suspicion that many people drawn to these works pay undo emphasis on the choir [or they are choir singers] and understandably get frustrating when the choir is not front and center in the musical proceedings. But what Poulenc wrote here does not emphasize the choir [he was a master instrumentalist after all!] so the orchestra should be more prominent at times. Ragardless, this is a great performance!