Pergolesi: Stabat mater; Nel chiuso centro; Questo é il piano; Sinfonia

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Pergolesi
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Stabat mater; Nel chiuso centro; Questo é il piano; Sinfonia
PERFORMER: Anna Netrebko (soprano), Marianna Pizzolato (contralto); Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 477 9337

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Anna Netrebko’s foray into Italian Baroque music is sure to attract considerable attention and the Russian diva’s singing certainly won’t disappoint – as thrillingly passionate here as it is in Romantic opera. She’s impressively partnered, too, by Marianna Pizzolato, whose full-bodied mezzo is as intense and intoxicating as the finest of Italian wines.
 
The problems with the disc lie in the stylistic mismatch between singers and orchestra, for while the former are rich-toned, expressive and mellifluous, the latter produces a dry, edgy sound, avoiding vibrato in an attempt to imitate Baroque performance style. The slimmed-down Accademia sounds anorexic by comparison with the buxom voices, and occasional problems of intonation and ensemble are inevitably exposed.
 
Of course, with a stellar team like this, there are many redeeming features, above all in the duets, when the sensuous intertwining of two such voluptuous voices makes for a heady mix indeed. But Antonio Pappano needlessly exaggerates Pergolesi’s dynamic contrasts, and he romps so jauntily through the ‘Inflammatus et accensus’ that you’d think it was Sunday lunch that was burning rather than the flames of hell on Judgement Day.
 
Fortunately, the performance regains its pathos in the final duet. But unless you particularly want glitzy names and glossy packaging, there are more idiomatic and polished performances to turn to, including those by Europe Galante, Il Seminario Musicale or Concerto Italiano. Kate Bolton