JS Bach: Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, BWV 1083;

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach • Pergolesi • Vivaldi
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: JS Bach: Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, BWV 1083; Pergolesi: Salve Regina; Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, RV 621; Sonata in E flat, RV 130 (Al Santo Sepolcro)
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano); Theatre of Early Music/Daniel Taylor (countertenor)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1546 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This disc of reflections on the grief of the Virgin Mary is sensitively under-stated, with one-to-a-part strings and voices of captivating artlessness and sincerity. The opening Vivaldi ‘Sonata’ for the Easter Vigil is as hushed and bare as the empty sepulchre it evokes. A similar stillness characterises the opening Largo of his Stabat Mater, Taylor beautifully matched by accompanying strings.

Refreshing my memory of several other recordings of this work, Taylor’s proves the most spontaneous voice in both this poignant, sombre meditation and in Pergolesi’s unaffected Salve Regina, written towards the end of his all-too-short 26-year life. The performance is unimpassioned and, but for a seeming brainstorm resulting in a hectically fast ‘Ad te clamamus’, effective by its very simplicity. 

Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, one of his last works, was an immediate success; the French traveller Charles de Brosses described it as ‘highly regarded on account of its profound grasp of harmony’. Bach clearly shared this view, borrowing it complete to set a German versification of the penitential Psalm 51.

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Surprisingly little is altered: for an interesting comparison, try Röschmann, Daniels and Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi in Pergolesi’s original (Virgin 363 3402). Emma Kirkby at her most serene is matched by Taylor as if they were two facets of a single musical entity. With first-rate surround-sound recording and a warm ambience, this is a disc not to be missed. George Pratt