Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Stabat Mater [36.41]
Salve Regina [14.10]
Dennis Naseband, soprano
Jochen Kowalski, alto
Raphael Alpermann, organ
Kammerorchester Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach/Harmut Haenchen
Rec: April 1992.
BERLIN CLASSICS BC 1047-2 [50.58]

Pergolesi had a brief life, but left an unforgettable mark on music history with his Stabat Mater, the centre-piece of this disc. Written in the last year of his life, as he was dying of consumption, this work praising the Virgin Mary, is a combination of melancholy movements (such as the almost tear-evoking opening Duetto) and more optimistc sections, such as the lively aria for alto which makes up the fourth section. Incorporating many aspects of the operatic, the Stabat Mater was commissioned by a group of Neapolitan noblemen. It is thought that it was meant to replace Alessandro Scarlatti's Stabat Mater, a similar work, composed in an older style. Pergolesi, in this work, combined the strict Neapolitan church style with the more melodic aspects of, then modern, opera, resulting in a work of unique emotional effect.

A very popular piece, this work has been recorded many times. While musically this recording is satisfying, it eventually fails due to the weak voice of Dennis Naseband, the boy soprano. He cannot really express the emotion required of his part, and his singing is just barely on-key. Jochen Kowalski is a fine alto, and his solos are excellent; the orchestra, as well, presents the music with appropriate balance.

The Salve Regina, was also composed in the final months of Pergolesi's life. Two versions of it exist: one for soprano, and the other for alto (this recording features the alto version). Opening in a manner similar to the Stabat Mater, this begins with a stark, emotional section for strings, full of grief and sadness. The second section expresses much more optimism, through a lively aria, sung over a very rhythmic accompaniment. The next two sections are also somewhat hopeful, and the work closes with a heart-rending aria in a largo section.

Sadly this disc disappoints by the weakness of the soprano soloist for the Stabat Mater, one of the finest sacred works of the 18th century. The Salve Regina is acceptable, but one would be better off looking for a recording with stronger singers, perhaps the fine recording featuring Emma Kirkby and James Bowman.

Kirk McElhearn


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