Guest, Norrington: Pergolesi - Stabat Mater, Scarlatti, Bononcini (2 CD, APE)
Guest, Norrington: Pergolesi – Stabat Mater, Scarlatti, Bononcini (2 CD, APE)

Composer: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Antonio Lotti, Antonio Bononcini, Antonio Caldara
Performer: Felicity Palmer, Alfreda Hodgson, Elizabeth Harwood, Dame Janet Baker, Elizabeth Vaughan, Ian Partridge, Paul Esswood, Christopher Keyte
Orchestra: Cambridge St John’s College Choir, Argo Chamber Orchestra, Heinrich Schütz Choir
Conductor: George Guest, Sir Roger Norrington, Sir David Willcocks
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 625 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

CD 01
01. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 1. Stabat Mater
02. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 2. Cujus animam
03. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 3. O quam tristis
04. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 4. Quae moerabat
05. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 5. Quis est homo
06. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 6. Vidit suum
07. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 7. Eia Mater
08. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 8. Fac ut ardeat
09. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 9. Sancta Mater
10. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 10. Fac ut portem
11. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 11. Inflammatus
12. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – 12. Quando corpus – Amen

13. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Stabat mater dolorosa
14. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Cujus animan gementem
15. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Quis non posset contristari
16. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Eja, mater, fons amoris
17. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Sancta mater, istud agas
18. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Fac me vere tecum flere
19. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater – Inflammatus et accensus

CD 02
01. Alessandro Scarlatti: O Magnum Mysterium
02. Alessandro Scarlatti: Domine, Refugium Factus es Nobis

03. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Magnificat – Magnificat
04. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Magnificat – Et misericordia
05. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Magnificat – Deposuit Potentes
06. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Magnificat – Suscepit Israel
07. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Magnificat – Sicut locutus est….Gloria

08. Antonio Lotti: Crucifixus (8vv)

09. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Stabat mater dolorosa
10. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – O quam tristis
11. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Quis est homo
12. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Pro peccatis
13. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Eja mater
14. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Sancta mater
15. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Fac me vere tecum flere
16. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Juxta crucem tecum stare
17. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Virgo virginum praeclara
18. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Fac ut portem
19. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Fac me plagis vulnerai
20. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Fac me cruce custodiri
21. Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Stabat Mater – Quando corpus morietur

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22. Antonio Caldara: Crucifixus

Vintage Stabat Mater recordings

The Magnificat by Francesco Durante featured in the final concert I gave as a member of the Cairo Choral Society. It is often attributed to his rather more famous pupil, Giovanni Pergolesi, and, indeed, it is “Pergolesi’s Magnificat” which is included on this recording; whatever its authorship, this work, which lasts little more than twelve minutes, is a delight from beginning to end.

This two-CD set is in fact a collection of recordings made between 1966 and 1978. Three Stabat Maters are featured; the celebrated one by Pergolesi and lesser known ones by Domenico Scarlatti and Antonio Bononcini. In fact, the medieval poem, the Stabat Mater dolorosa, did not attract widespread attention from composers until the eighteenth century.

There are many recordings available of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater and this version, recorded in 1978 by St John’s College, Cambridge under George Guest, would be a long way from being anyone’s first choice version, primarily because performance practice has moved on considerably over the past four decades. A major reason for buying a particular version of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater would be for many people the vocal soloists; here we have the serviceable contralto of Alfreda Hodgson and the slightly acidic soprano of Felicity Palmer (whom I love, incidentally, in her reincarnation as a mezzo).

Putting thoughts of performance practice to one side, the other two Stabat Maters in this set are for me much more enjoyable (perhaps, it must be said, because the works are new to me). Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater was recorded in 1973 by Roger Norrington and the Schütz Choir of London, as were the two pieces by his father, Alessandro. Norrington somehow seems to show a more natural affinity for this music than do the other conductors on these discs and these unfamiliar pieces are the ones which gave me the most joy.

The Bononcini Stabat Mater is a wonderful piece and the inclusion of Philip Langridge among the soloists is an added bonus. George Guest is the conductor here, as he is for the two settings of the Crucifixus; the one by Lotti is a staple ingredient of most Early Music choral compilations, but the one by Caldara is equally fine.

David Willcocks and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge are the performers in the Magnificat by Durante/Pergolesi and the presence among the soloists of Janet Baker and Ian Partridge must be noted. The recording dates from 1966, but the sound is very good.

I am sure that there are more recommendable versions of all of these works out there, but the performances here are exemplary and this must be a tempting purchase at a bargain price.

AN EARLY MUSIC BONANZA FEATURING THREE FIRST-CLASS CHOIRS.

The ‘Stabat Mater’ is a medieval poem describing the anguish of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion written at the end of the 13th century by a Franciscan lay brother named Jacopone da Todi. It did not attract widespread attention from composers until the 18th century when Alessandro Scarlatti,his son Domenico, Vivaldi, Bononcini, Haydn and Pergolesi as well as many others set the poem to music. They were, no doubt, attracted to the emotional and dramatic nature of the poem, and most of the composers were commissioned by various individuals for non-liturgical devotions or concerts.

Alessandro Scarlatti’s seems to be the earliest of the group. He scored it for soprano and alto voices(probably sung by a ‘castrati’ at that time), two violins and continuo. This setting was used frequently until Pergolesi’s setting around 1735. Pergolesi modeled his composition after Scarlatti; for one thing both are scored for the same 2 voices and strings. Both divide the poem into a number of duets and solo arias. One difference between the two settings is that Pergolesi’s is shorter and rather more concise. The very fine Schutz Choir of London under the direction of Roger Norrington renders this wonderful mucic wonderfully well!

It is not certain that Pergolesi actually wrote the ‘Magnificat’ on this disc, but it is a quality and richly imaginative work, nonetheless. Beautifully sung by the inimitable Choir of KIng’s College (David Willcocks).
Domenico’s ‘Stabat Mater’ is set for 10 voices and organ and its mood is meditative clearly intended for liturgical use.(Schutz Choir)

Bononcini’s ‘Stabat Mater’ was composed during his residence in Vienna. It is unique because of its harmonic and contrapuntal writing, in the choruses in particular and in the soprano aria ‘O Quam Tristis’. It could have been written by Bach himself. St.John’s College Choir gives this number skilled treatment. (George Guest).

The two ‘Crucifixus’ settings by Lotti and Caldara are both examples of the old-style composition as it had developed by the late Baroque; the harmonic and expressive techlniques of the new style were applied to the old polyphony, providing a highly emotional vehicle for a creative composer. Both works inspirationally sung by St. John’s College Choir.

Opera and cantata were the 2 principal forms which Alessandro Scarlatti practised, but he also composed some superb motets, two of which are featured on this disc. ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ is for double choir eight-part counterpoint. (Schutz Choir) ‘Domine refugium factus es nobis’ is for five voices; it is in a style that relies much on sonorous harmony and counterpoint; in fact it has a grandeur that anticipates Handel. (Schutz Choir)

I think that it is interesting to note that there are varied groups and soloists performing on these disc, and all are quite good. Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ is disappointing to me because it does not have a countertenor performing the alto part; however, the contralto singer did an acceptable performance (St.John’s College).

No matter what your personal preference may be as to soloists and/or particular choirs, it would indeed be difficult to not find something in the Early Music genre to enjoy on these two CD’s. So go for it; it’s a good price at this point in time.

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