Dvořák: Stabat Mater, Op. 58
Dvorák’s Stabat Mater began life as a heartfelt response to the death of his two-day old daughter, Josefina, in 1875. Busy at work on his grand opera, Vanda, the Stabat Mater remained a torso in piano score. But with the death of his two remaining children two years later, Dvorák was moved to complete and orchestrate the work. The result was a great and noble work with huge appeal for choirs and audiences, particularly in England, and which was much admired by Brahms. The strength of the work resides in its remarkable depth of sentiment supported by strong formal structures and superb writing for chorus. The opening movement is one of Dvorák’s broadest and most sustained, and the wonderful concluding ‘Amen’ his most exultant choral statement.
From nearly every point of view, this latest recording is disappointing. Most of the tempos are too fast resulting, to cite just one major example, in a reading of the first movement which simply fails to deliver its shattering climax. Similarly, in the solo mezzo-soprano aria, ‘Inflammatus’, Dagmar Pecková sounds almost harried by the hectic pace adopted. A notable exception is the ‘Eia, mater’; usually performed too slowly, here it has a suitably dignified, march-like quality. Nor does the rather distantly recorded London Philharmonic Choir seem to be on particularly good form, with the conclusion in particular sounding rather strained. All in all, this is not really a recommendable performance and certainly falls far short of Jirí Belohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic on Chandos.