LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Stabat mater; Salve regina; Sinfonia a tre
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens (soprano)Il Seminario Musicale/Gérard Lesne (countertenor)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45291 2
Pergolesi, a master of opera seria and comic intermezzo, is nevertheless best known for his setting of the Stabat mater. Scored for two solo voices – soprano and mezzo-soprano ranges – with strings, this piece was one of the most popular vocal works of the mid- to late 18th century, and printed more frequently than almost any other. The idiom of contemporary Italian opera is never far away but it is the uncluttered emotional directness of this Stabat mater, and a touching pathos which, more than any other feature, have ensured its lasting appeal.
Soprano Véronique Gens and countertenor Gérard Lesne create an effective partnership in the duo sections, while offering a pleasing tonal contrast in their respective solos. Less helpful, though, are the over- reverberant acoustics of the Dominican Convent in Paris which not only strip the work of its intimate radiancy but also require an artificially close recorded perspective for the instruments of Il Seminario Musicale. I have reservations, too, about the vocal ornamentation in a few instances which seems not in any way to enhance either text or musical line. The inclusion of the beautiful C minor Salve regina for alto and strings was an excellent idea but the performance satisfies only intermittently. Nicholas Anderson