Three contrasting versions of the 'Stabat Mater', all most attractive and all composed within 20 years, in the second half of the 18th century. These excellent performances under Daniel Cuiller's direction are also all first recordings - and for Abos and Gasparini, first entries in the CD catalogue. An enterprising release, of great interest.
The ensemble L`Archibudelli and the cellist Anner Bylsma, together with the wonderful soprano Roberta Invernizzi, have once again recorded the exceptionally well-rehearsed Mass by Luigi Boccherini in a fantastic recording. Despite minimal use without choir and winds, the listener is captivated by the drama of each movement. Rberta Invernizzi brings out in a clear and fine voice every single twist of this interesting work and the string ensemble shines with powerful, gripping sound and wonderful slow movements. The Stabat Mater is supplemented by the String Quintet op. 42.
Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti (1706 - 1787) lived a large part of his life in Pisa, Italy, where he was director of music of the cathedral. Though he composed operas as well as other works he composed mainly for the church. According to the musicologist Paolo Peretti his Stabat Mater was more or less copied , in 1825, by Antonio Brunetti, probably a nephew of his, who changed some things, replaced three sections by his own and sold it as his own work: "Stabat Mater all'imitazione del'esimio Sig.Pergolesi". From this we might conclude that in fact Giovanni Gualberto himself had already made an imitation of Pergolesi's. Especially the first four parts have indeed a strong resemblance. Nevertheless, though Giovanni took Pergolesi's as an example, his contribution to the music is such, that it surely can be regarded as a work of his own. In this respect it is interesting too, to notice that he used a different text than Pergolesi.
Boccherini wrote very little vocal music; however he left two settings of the Stabat mater. It was first set in 1781 for solo soprano and strings and then in 1800 for two sopranos and tenor, obviously influenced by the hugely-popular Pergolesi Stabat mater of 1736. There are many similarities in the notation and harmony—even the same key of F minor is used. The writing is of extraordinary individuality and seems to come straight from the heart. This unjustly neglected piece is surely one of the most remarkable sacred compostions of the era.
Emanuele d'Astorga was one of the most colourful figures in early eighteenth-century music and his life has often been the subject of legend rather than fact (brief details of which can be discovered in Robert King's illuminating booklet notes). During his life, Astorga was best known for his well-written and tuneful chamber cantatas (of which more than 150 survive) and his opera Dafni (only Act 1 now survives). But by far his most enduring work has proved to be this setting of the Stabat mater, his only surviving sacred composition. Throughout it we hear Astorga's gift for writing warm melodies, typical of the Neapolitan style of the time, and how he captures the melancholy of this most desolate of sacred texts.
The new album by the Warsaw Philharmonic features music by eminent Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. His Litany to the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater and Song of the Night were written between 1914 and 1933, which is considered to have been the most fruitful period in his creative life.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, truly merits the adjective "tragic"; it was written after the deaths of two of the composer's children in succession, and his grief rolled out in great, Verdian waves. There are several strong recordings on the market, including an earlier one by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek himself, but for the combination of deep feeling, technical mastery from musicians and singers who have spent their lives getting to know the score, and soloists who not only sound beautiful but are seamlessly integrated into the flow, this Decca release may be the king of them all. To what extent was the strength of the performance motivated by Bělohlávek's likely fatal illness (he died days after the album entered the top levels of classical charts in the spring of 2017)? It's hard to say, although he also delivered top-notch performances of Dvorák's Requiem in his last days. The members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir sing their hearts out in the gigantic, shattering opening chorus, which has rarely if ever had such a mixture of the impassioned and the perfectly controlled. Sample the chorus "Virgo virginium praeclara" to hear the magically suspended quality Bělohlávek brings out of the singers in lightly accompanied passages.