Marian Music from Naples
ANON Stabat mater (intonation) [2:35]
Tarantella napoletana [3:55]
Stabat mater dolorosa (plainchant, from manuscripts c.1715) [7:47]
Francesco DURANTE (1684-1755)
Concerto No.4 in e minor [10:08]
ANON Stabat mater dolorosa (plainchant, from Ostuni manuscript) [1:10]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Stabat Mater dolorosa [34:05]
Patrizia Bovi (soprano), Pino de Vittorio (tenor), Bernard Arrieta (bass)
Les Pages et les Chantres de la Chapelle
Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre
rec. Paris, February 2000. DDD
Texts NOT included

The Outhere group, who have produced some very fine recordings of baroque music, have just reissued at budget price fourteen albums of what they call ‘seminal’ repertoire, some of them 2-CD sets, from their Alpha and Zig Zag Territoires labels.  Though they come at an attractive price, the booklets have mostly not been skimped, with new sets of notes included.  There are, however, no texts in this release; though that of the Stabat Mater is not hard to find online, it should have been provided.  The recordings – all of fairly recent provenance – are good. 

My other complaint is that whereas the Alpha originals offered artwork contemporary with the music, we now have garish modern covers instead.  The CDs come in a cardboard bi-fold, into opposite sides of which the disc and booklet are slipped.  If you prefer something less flimsy, it’s easy to keep the CD and booklet in a slim-line plastic case.

With plenty of very fine recordings of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater to choose, in order to be competitive any new or reissued version needs to have a special selling point.  In this case it’s the fact that the Pergolesi is preceded by a number of other versions of Stabat mater, such as might have been sung in procession in Passiontide in Naples in his time.  For these items, all taken from manuscripts roughly contemporary with Pergolesi, the singers use an open-throated folk style which contrasts with the much more refined approach to the main work.

With other recordings offering more music by Pergolesi, usually one or both of his settings of Salve Regina, or another composer’s setting of Stabat Mater, I don’t expect that I shall be playing the first part of this CD too often – perhaps just the Durante concerto as a prelude to the Pergolesi.  The rest is a one-off experience, though you may feel otherwise.

For the Pergolesi setting one of my prime choices would be Anna Netrebko and Marianna Pizzolato with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and Antonio Pappano (DG 4778877, prestige edition – review – or 4779337, standard edition).  If in the mood for a more emotional ride through this and Alessandro Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, the work which it was commissioned to supersede, the best option is Rinaldo Alessandrini with Gemma Bertagnolli, Sara Mingardo and Concerto Italiano (Naïve OP30441, budget price – review).

Vincent Dumestre and his Poème Harmonique switch from Naples to Versailles for the Pergolesi, where it was performed continuously from before 1753 to 1790 employing the version found in the manuscript Les menus plaisirs du Roy.

They give a good, reasonably ‘straight’ performance – much less impassioned than the Alessandrini, though that doesn’t mean tame.  If there were no comparisons to be made among similar interpretations, I might well have enjoyed it more.  Most sections are actually faster than on the recordings by Alessandrini, Pappano or Hogwood (below), but the effect is more of emotion recollected in tranquillity than with the first two.

The problem for me lies with the soprano part.  The various soloists from Le Poème sing well, but somewhere in the back of my mind is the wonderful Dame Emma Kirkby whose recording with a splendid partner in James Bowman, the Academy of Ancient Music and Christopher Hogwood is also available at about the same price as the Alpha (Decca 4256992, with Salve Regina in c minor, around £8.50.  Also in The Baroque Era, 4786753, 50 CDs for around £80).  If Netrebko is a tad too operatic for you, Kirkby is your best choice.  Her recording is also available on Decca Virtuoso for even less, around £7, with Andreas Scholl, Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset in the Pergolesi Salve Regina in f minor).

Kirkby, Bowman and Hogwood steer a very effective middle course between the stylish merits of the Dumestre performance and the greater sense of emotional involvement of Alessandrini.  The recording still sounds well and you have the option of obtaining it in various inexpensive formats: if your baroque library is still in gestation you could do much worse than obtain that 50-CD set, which is also available to download in two 25-CD parts, with the Pergolesi on the first half.

If you would like to make the comparison yourself, all four versions mentioned are available from Qobuz: the Dumestre is here – subscribers can stream whole works; others can sample.

If Le Poème Harmonique and Vincent Dumestre appeal, they appear on another reissue in this series, in Mazzoli’s La Fiera di Farfa and Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa and Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (ALPHA306).  More about that in my next Download News.

This is an attractive reissue, especially if the first part attracts you, but not one of the best in the series.  The performance of the main work yields to several other recordings, some equally inexpensive.

Brian Wilson

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