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Pergolesi: Stabat Mater, etc

Ensemble Resonanz/Riccardo Minasi, et al (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Pergolesi • Ragazzi • Rossell
Pergolesi: Stabat Mater; Ragazzi: Sonata a quattro, Op. 1/4; Rossell: Salve Regina
Giulia Semenzato (soprano), Lucille Richardot (mezzo-soprano); Ensemble Resonanz/Riccardo Minasi
Harmonia Mundi HMM902637   60:15 mins

As well as showcasing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, this project is also a tale of musical sleuthing by Ensemble Resonanz’s director, violinist Riccardo Minasi. Long doubtful about the authenticity of an F minor setting of the Salve Regina attributed to Pergolesi, Minasi discovered that its fragrant music is actually by the shadowy Catalan composer Joan Rossell. It was passed off as Pergolesi’s in a 1773 edition by the Scottish publisher Robert Bremner who, perhaps in the hope of profiting from the celebrity status of ‘the Neapolitan Orpheus’, even touched up the score to make it sound more like ‘the real thing’.

To both works, Minasi and his musicians bring all the drama of Italian opera, highlighting the gamut of Baroque affects with unapologetically extravagant gestures: expressive portamentos and vivid contrasts of tempo, dynamic, colour and texture. In the Stabat Mater, jabbing instrumental chords pierce legato lines, dances turn to trance-like reflections, unnerving silences and exaggerated accents fracture the text. Giulia Semenzato’s voluptuous soprano offsets the more androgynous quality of Lucile Richardot’s plangent mezzo; some may find their liberal vibrato and vocal portamentos a little intrusive. With its rich orchestral sound (modern instruments, period style, meantone temperament) this is a gutsy, impassioned performance – a far cry from the more contained period-instrument versions of recent years. The filling in this Pergolesi-Rossell sandwich is a Sonata for strings – again in the grief-laden key of F minor – by the violinist Angelo Ragazzi. The ensemble’s account oozes Neapolitan vitality and sentiment.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti