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Maria Mater Meretrix (Prohaska/Kopatchinskaja)

Anna Prohaska (soprano), Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin); Camerata Bern (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Maria Mater Meretrix
Works by L Boulanger, Caldara, G Crumb, Dufay, Eisler, Haydn, Hildegaard, Holst, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Kurtág, Lotti, F Martin, Victoria and Vogelweide
Anna Prohaska (soprano), Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin); Camerata Bern
Alpha Classics ALPHA 739   73:33 mins

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Anna Prohaska and Patricia Kopatchinskaja have long shared a boundless curiosity when it comes to programme building, and Maria Mater Meretrix certainly throws up some startling juxtapositions – none more so than the Stabat Mater that concludes Frank Martin’s Maria-Triptychon followed by Hans Eisler’s Kuppellied with its forthright lyrics by Brecht and earthy send-up of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. There’s method, however, in the incongruity, which sets out to explore what it is to be a woman, anchored by the example of the Virgin Mary and her ‘female antitype’, Mary Magdalen. What emerges is an ear-opening musical traversal of some 800 years touching on Walther von der Vogelweide and Abbess Hildegard of Bingen at one end, George Crumb and György Kurtág at the other. Central is the Martin Triptychon, but its panels are separated and spliced with works from Dufay and Victoria to Lili Boulanger under the impress of Fauré’s Requiem.

If the narrative trajectory sometimes seems a little opaque (the liner notes assert that the ‘associative links…are in no way directly associative’!), the musical journey is compelling. Holst’s sparely-imagined ‘Jesu Sweet’ for soprano and violin establishes an immediate, almost improvisatory, rapport between Prohaska and Kopatchinskaja that never falters across the album. Prohaska soars rapturously in the Dufay Ave Maris Stella, and bestows a languorous gleam on the Boulanger. She and Kopatchinskaja mine a blazing emotional truthfulness in the undeservedly neglected Martin. Only an arrangement for strings of Lotti’s most famous Crucifixus feels like a misstep in an otherwise ingeniously plotted project delivered with panache and unimpeachable conviction.

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Paul Riley