Pergolesi: Stabat mater; Salve regina in Fminor; Salve regina in A minor

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COMPOSERS: Pergolesi
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Stabat mater; Salve regina in Fminor; Salve regina in A minor
PERFORMER: Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Barbara Bonney (soprano); Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: 466 134-2
Pergolesi’s sublime setting of the Stabat mater, a 13th-century text that was accepted as part of the Catholic liturgy only in 1727, was written at the end of his brief life (he died in 1736 at the age of 26) and suggests that had he lived longer his name might be as familiar as Vivaldi. Rossini, in particular, admired it to such an extent that he was reluctant to accept the commission for his own setting (1842) on the grounds that it could never equal Pergolesi’s.

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It would be hard to imagine a better assemblage of performers than those gathered for this recording, and the result is perfection. Scholl’s voice is miraculously pure, focused and beautiful. And compared, say, to his 1995 recording of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, it has acquired a dramatic depth and shed its slightly antiseptic quality. It is impeccably complemented by Bonney’s lighter, brighter tone and equally graceful, sincere and unmannered interpretation. Properly, they never exaggerate or overplay the gravity and melancholy of the texts, leaving one in no doubt as to the spiritual and emotional essence of the work. Christophe Rousset inspires superlative playing from the young Lyon-based period-instrument ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, revealing every exquisite detail, layer and texture of the score. An outstanding achievement. Claire Wrathall