Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710)-1736)
Stabat Mater [39:49]
Organ Sonata in G major [1:25]
Organ Sonata in F major [4;14]
Salve Regina [14:48]
Katia Ricciarelli (soprano); Manuela Custer (alto); Francesco Baroni (organ)
I Filarmonici Chamber Orchestra/Giorgio Croci
rec. Verona, March 1995. DDD
TACTUS TC711602 [60:07]
It could only be the 300th anniversary of Pergolesi’s birth that prompted the release of this CD. But if Tactus are hoping to cash in on the legend surrounding the demise of the young Neapolitan composer, they are likely to be disappointed.
Dating from 1995 (and made at an unspecified location), the recording has very little to commend it. For a start, the solo singers in both the Stabat Mater and Salve Regina are totally miscast. The disc captures Katia Ricciarelli when her career was already on the wane. Vocally she sounds undistinguished, and her operatic tone is completely unsuited to the demands of the Baroque sacred repertoire, which requires subtlety and reflection. This is clear in the opening ‘Stabat mater’ (track 1), where she belts out her part in true Verdian style. Her over-dramatic swoops and dives continue throughout the work, climaxing in a full-on outburst in the ‘Vidit suum’ (track 6).
Although written for both soprano and contralto, Ricciarelli constantly hogs the vocal limelight. Not that we miss much from Manuela Custer. Her tone is heavy and matronly, with little expressive feeling. Ricciarelli’s and Custer’s pairing in the ‘Quis est homo’ (track 5) is truly awful. Loud and insensitive, it ends with what sounds like a Verdi cavatina. Only the ‘Sancta mater’ (track 9) offers a more rounded duet. Custer continues to trudge through the Salve Regina (tracks 15-20), which is notable only for its singular ugliness.
In between, organist Francesco Baroni plays two very brief sonatas – the longest lasts just over four minutes. It is unclear why these are included, and the sleeve-notes provide no explanation. They are barely noticeable and not even very tuneful.
The recorded sound on the disc is distant, dull and hollow, with only the organ continuo - not played by Baroni in the Stabat Mater and Salve Regina - clearly audible behind an uninspired string orchestra.
John-Pierre Joyce
Uninspired ... see Full Review