Pergolesi/Scarlatti

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Pergolesi/Scarlatti
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Stabat Mater; Salve Regina; Salve Regina
PERFORMER: June Anderson (soprano), Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano); Montreal Sinfonietta/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 436 209-2 DDD
This is luxury casting for Pergolesi’s oft-recorded Stabat Mater, but with very mixed results. The text may speak of the grief of Jesus’ mother standing at the foot of the cross, but there is undeniably an element of comic opera in Pergolesi’s uninhibitedly tuneful setting. That might seem to justify the casting of two favourite divas, June Anderson and Cecilia Bartoli, but alas, impressive as Anderson might be in bel canto repertoire of a hundred years later, Pergolesi’s flowing Baroque lines mercilessly expose her weaknesses: number after number is compromised, if not wrecked, by her inability to float a perfectly tuned, gracefully sculpted legato line. Bartoli has also made her reputation primarily in music of the Classical and early Romantic periods, but her technique and sense of style are impeccable here too.

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Dutoit’s tempi, though not unduly sluggish, are leisurely compared with the period-instrument performances under Christopher Hogwood and Robert King (who more successfully capture the comic-opera overtones), and encourage the singers to wallow in the beauty of their voices.

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The inclusion of the fine Salve Regina attributed to Alessandro Scarlatti, shows just how indebted Pergolesi was to the older master for both his own Salve Regina (also given here) and the Stabat Mater: more melodic inspirations and harmonic gestures recall the Scarlatti than can be attributed to coincidence. Barry Millington