A disc as lovely as this should not be overlooked. Vivaldi’s Stabat
has hardly lacked for fine recordings over the years
but here we have a performance of real distinction and allure.
The Theatre of Early Music is a small band - two violins, a viola,
cello and bass, with lute and organ - but its tempo decisions
and internal balancing are both exemplary. Articulation is crisp
- note the cleanly articulated cello line - and the timbral qualities
of the string are auspicious. Rhythms are buoyant, and the expressive
qualities of the music are held in fine balance. To turn to specifics,
the Quis est homo
is rendered with delicate refinement,
a legato melsima of real eloquence. Daniel Taylor evinces no
sense of forcing his counter tenor, and no glorying in its very
obvious qualities for the sake of it; some other counter tenors
should take note. The tempo for the slow Fac ut ardeat
judged to perfection, with its sense of motion ensuring that
the textual meaning is perfectly conveyed. I suppose that
Scholl [Harmonia Mundi HMC801571] and Robin Blaze [Hyperion CDA66799]
are the two outstanding contenders in this work at the moment.
most closely resembles Blaze in ethos, though I prefer the newcomer’s
performance all round. Scholl’s is a more extrovert performance,
fine, if you prefer to shy away from the more veiled intimacies
that Taylor explores.
Pergolesi’s compact Salve Regina
again evinces strongly
meditative qualities in this performance, so those seeking more
fulsome, or speedier virtues will need to seek elsewhere. It’s
difficult to ensure a good balance in the lento movement Ad
but Taylor and his forces manage it well. The
last work is a curiosity, hyphenated Bach-Pergolesi, as it were.
This is a transcription by Bach of Pergolesi’s Stabat
and was made some time around 1746-48, a good while
after the Italian composer’s early 1736 death. Bach
added extra instrumental lines, added to the bass continuo, and
even added movements, rendering the text in a German translation. Here
Taylor is joined by Emma Kirkby and their rapport is obvious,
the voices well blended, and as before the reflective sense of
the chosen tempi conveys a great deal. It’s a very natural,
unforced performance with no extraneous gestures, vocal or instrumental,
to distract. Verse 4 - Dich erzürnt
- is especially
finely conceived but it’s invidious to select highlights.
The depth and pathos (try Denn du willst
are everywhere apparent.
The purely instrumental Sonata ‘al Santo Sepolcro’
Vivaldi serves as the disc’s opening item - an Easter movement
chosen with acumen and played with tactile excellence by the
With a natural and sympathetic recording and helpful booklet
notes this reflective disc brings impressive and sensitive qualities
to bear, and should on no account be overlooked.