WORKS: Stabat mater; Stabat mater; Stabat mater dolorosa
PERFORMER: Joanne Andrews (soprano), Deborah Miles-Johnson (mezzo-soprano), Simon Berridge (tenor); Fretwork, Taverner Consort & Choir/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45272 2
The Stabat mater text has been immensely popular with composers ever since it was written in the 13th century. It combines a deeply personal exploration of Mary’s grief at her Son’s death with passages of grisly ecstasy (‘let me be fascinated by the wounds… and inebriated by the blood’). Strangely enough, Palestrina comes closest of the three composers on this disc to the expression of ecstasy: his unusual harmonic shifts colour and excite the interplay of voices in this terrific performance.
By contrast, the setting by Pärt (composed in 1985) here comes across as rather subdued, with the acoustics not quite spacious enough and the vision rather disjointed – though the replacement of the original string trio by a consort of viols lends a beautiful intimacy to some isolated moments.
John Browne’s setting (from the Eton Choirbook) is one of the most remarkable works from the late medieval period. Its full majesty and musical invention are displayed with great clarity and drama in a performance that is just ahead of the rival version by The Sixteen on Collins. Altogether this is an unusual and moving compilation, full of musical connections and surprises. Anthony Pryer