Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Stabat Mater Hob.XXbis (1767) [57:21]
Ann Hoyt (soprano)
Luthien Brackett (alto)
Stephen Sands (tenor)
Richard Lippold (bass)
Trinity Choir, Rebel Baroque Orchestra/J. Owen Burdick
rec. Trinity Church, New York May 2003
NAXOS 8.572121 [57:21]
Naxos has collated its Haydn Masses series into a single box [8.508009] so if you fancy having the full works in a single handy collection these performances, conducted by J. Owen Burdick and Jane Glover, may fit your bill, and price bracket. Single discs are still available, and this one is no exception; a 2003 recording of the once-neglected 1767 Stabat Mater.
The forces are familiar ones, given their prominence in the Naxos series. The direction and execution are able, the singing generally good, phrasing attractive. An affirmative spirit courses through the performance and it mitigates the sometimes funereal performances that we used to hear. The orchestral forces, the Rebel Baroque Orchestra, employ period instruments and practice, which gives a not unwelcome astringency to some - but by no means all - of the playing. The balance between solo voices, orchestral solos and the choir is a just one.
There is, in fact, little with which to cross swords in a performance as attractive as this. Comparing older, conventional performances with one such as this is not comparing like-with-like, but if one were to do so, one should point out that the famous old Laszlo Heltay recording, with a stellar vocal line up of Augér, Hodgson, Rolfe-Johnson and Howell, is invariably a minute slower in all the more extensive movements, which adds considerably to the total timing, and also the sense of incipient gravity and contemplation generated by such tempos.
Here we find articulation is bright and tight. Stephen Sands has a quite light tenor, but it’s mobile and relatively flexible. He starts the work, soloistically, with the Stabat mater dolorosa and when he follows bass Richard Lippold in the Virgo virginum praeclara - and before the other two voices enter - he blends well with his colleagues. Luthien Brackett has an attractive, well focused alto, and Ann Hoyt sports a bright, youthful soprano. She makes a fine showing in Quis non posset contristari where spruce winds and a well balanced organ are strongly to the fore. Understandably perhaps she snatches at breaths a touch in the Sancta Mater, istud agas. Lippold is a pleasantly sonorous bass, doing well by Pro peccatis suae gentis. The chorus, which is the Trinity Choir, come into its own in the concluding Paradisi Gloria where the bases don’t over-part the tenors - and indeed all sections sing well.
The acoustic works in favour of the performance, though there is some ambient noise floating about, audible at higher levels. I didn’t find it especially distracting. So if you fancy an original instrument performance with good soloists, band and choir and a brisk, attractive tempo, and all at a bargain price bracket, I’m not sure you could do better than this.
I’m not sure you could do better than this.