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Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-36)
Stabat Mater [35:04]
Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768)
Salve Regina [16:58]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Beatus vir qui timet [13:53]
Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Christopher Lowrey (countertenor)
Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
rec. 2018, Église Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption d'Auvers-sur-Oise, France
ALPHA 449 [66:11]

If like me, you have you have eight or so recordings of the music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, you will no doubt have duplicates, with either the Stabat Mater or the Salve Regina featuring greatly, although his operas are quite good too. So, this raises the question, do I really need yet another recording of the Stabat Mater? The answer is yes, especially if it is performed by Sandrine Piau, one of my favourite singers, and conducted by Christophe Rousset, a conductor and performer I greatly admire. Yes, I know he has recorded the work already, and with the dream team of Andreas Scholl and Barbara Bonney (466 1342), but I just didn’t get the feeling with that recording that I do with my old favourite, Emma Kirkby and James Bowman and Christopher Hogwood (425 692-2), they just seem to get to the emotion better!

In this recording Sandrine Piau is, as always, wonderful and she is backed up well by the countertenor Christopher Lowrey, with the two making a well-balanced pairing; they really get to the heart of the music, whilst Les Talens Lyriques contribute greatly, more than they did on their Decca recording. This recording of the Stabat Mater is slightly slower than Rousset’s earlier recording, with timings varying with the movements, some slower, some faster. This is evident in the opening Stabat Mater dolorosa, which here is 40 seconds slower, with these performers certainly making the most of the extra time as they manage to squeeze every ounce of raw emotion out of the movement: wonderful! This is certainly up there with the best recordings of this work.

For the remaining two works we have pieces by Pergolesi’s slightly older Neapolitan contemporaries, Nicola Antonio Porpora and Leonardo Leo, whose music, I must admit, I do not know that well. I do have a disc entitled ‘Salve Regina’ that presents settings by all three composers featured here, where the soprano Federica Napoletani is good, but not in the league of Sandrine Piau, and the same must also be said of the orchestra. Here, Piau is at her best in the Porpora as she sparkles and expertly shapes her vocal tone to suit the words.

I did not know the Leonardo Leo setting at all, my main experience of his music being instrumental or operatic. I do have one or two religious works, but sadly not the Beatus vir. This is a wonderful setting with Christopher Lowrey’s clear toned countertenor coming across really well; he is a singer new to me but one I will be looking out for in the future. A strong performance all around makes this a real find.

This is an excellent disc, one in which the soloists perform to a high standard, whilst they along with Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset produce a version of the Pergolesi that surpasses their earlier recording for Decca. The acoustic is sympathetic to the music which results in a well recorded and clear sound. The booklet notes by Dinko Fabris are very good and give plenty of detail about the composers and their music. All in all, this is a highly attractive recording, one I cannot recommend highly enough.

Stuart Sillitoe

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