This 2004 survey of modern settings of the medieval sequence Stabat Mater Dolorosa is part of conductor Marcello Viotti's project to record the little-known but worthy sacred works of the twentieth century, in conjunction with the Munich Radio Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Chorus for their concert series Paradisi gloria. The four works by Francis Poulenc, Karol Szymanowski, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Wolfgang Rihm are dramatically different in conception and musical content, and may be regarded more as reflections of personal faith than as practical works for ecclesiastical purposes.
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!
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, written in the aftermath of the deaths of three of his children, is a sober and powerful work, inexplicably neglected and unlike any other work of choral music from the 19th century. Perhaps most performances don't capture its full weight, but this live recording from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons, does so. There are many deep pleasures here. The orchestra's choir is extraordinary: rich yet without a hint of wobble and utterly clear in its sense of the text. Jansons keeps things at a deliberate pace that lets the music breathe and the currents of personal experience rise to the surface. The soloists, none terribly well known, are fine in their individual numbers, but absolutely transcendent in ensembles, nowhere more so that in the sublime "Quando corpus morietur" finale (track 10); there are a couple of other strong recordings of this work, but it seems likely that no one has ever matched this conclusion. The live recording from the Herkulessaal in Munich is impressively transparent and faithful to the spontaneity of the event. A superb Dvorák release.