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Stabat Mater Op. 58 (1876-77)
Yvonne Kenny (soprano);
Eva Randová (mezzo); Wieslaw Ochmann (tenor);
Ján Galla (bass)
Prague Philharmonic Chorus
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Neumann.
rec. Vladislav Hall, Hradčany, Prague, 1989.
PCM Stereo; 4:3 DVD 9; NTSC.
MUSIC 102109 [87:00]
just too long to settle onto a single CD, Dvořák’s Stabat
Mater makes for a short DVD - at just under one and a
half hours. In this case, though, I would be inclined to
ignore the value-for-money angle and recommend purchase for
this radiant performance of a radiant work.
began sketching his Stabat
Mater in the immediate aftermath of the death of his infant daughter,
returning to it after the death of his children Ruzena and
Otakar; the deaths occurred within a few weeks of each other.
The work brought the composer much success both at home and
abroad, particularly in England.
mood of the text is broadly in two parts. The booklet claims
the author to have been Iacopone da Todi, but this is not
set in stone and Innocent III is another likely author. Initially,
the concentration is on the sorrow and suffering of the Mother
of Christ, while the mood turns later, from the fifth movement
onwards, towards the hope inherent in the Resurrection.
recorded history of this work includes such luminaries as
Kubelík, Talich and Smetáček. It is no exaggeration
to state that this reading is fully deserving of mention
in the same breath as the above. It seems to have the DVD
market to itself, but that is no real problem given the stature
of the performance. Neumann scales his performance perfectly,
both on a global level and on a more immediate one within
the ten individual movements. The absolute crystal clarity
of the shot of Neumann at the beginning is impressive on
first viewing. It is instructive to watch his clear and expressive
beat; just as it is easy to marvel at his intimate acquaintance
with the score.
first movement - Stabat
mater dolorosa, the first four verses - is surprisingly forward-looking
in terms of the composer’s expression, painting a
near-Mahlerian expanse. The bare walls of the venue seem
very much in keeping with the desolation of the music here.
The tenor entrance (10:15) introduces Wieslaw Ochmann at
full pelt, although the viewing experience is marred by some
faulty lip-synching. Yvonne
Kenny is magnificent at 'O quam tristis'. All four soloists,
in fact, are excellent. It is interesting to note that while
Randová can be guilty of having her head in the score, Kenny’s
eyes seem glued to Neumann.
The characteristic Dvořákian cor anglais tint to the
texture of 'Quis et homo' is most effective, especially when
rendered as expressively
as here. Randová exhibits a rather large vibrato here
yet the sheer quality of her voice compensates. In the passages
of Randová in duet with
Kenny’s radiant soprano it is evident why this line-up was
chosen. Jan Galla’s bass is very focused in this movement.
The chorus under
Lubomír Mátl is astonishingly well disciplined, and capable
of great power when necessary. Balancing is uniformly excellent,
too. Only in 'Fac me vere tecum fiere' is there a suspicion
of congestion. Curiously, Ochmann sounds a little bleaty in
this self-same movement.
It is Neumann’s
evident passion for every note of the score that shines through
most. This is a very special DVD that deserves every success.
It is worth noting
that Supraphon recently reissued the mono 1952 Talich reading
of this work, spread over two discs and coupled with Suk’s Asrael Symphony.
Giuseppe Sinopoli provides an inexplicably under-rated and
heartfelt recording on DG with Dresden-based forces. For more
Neumann on DVD, his reading of the Dvořák Requiem is
also available on Arthaus (102 063).
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