Magnificent. The Stabat Mater projected as a work of red-blooded Italian passion, a natural successor to Rossini’s operas.
This work, in its entirety by Rossini (an earlier version, with additions by another composer, had been previously performed), was premiered in Paris in 1842 and then played in Bologna (with Donizetti conducting); it was a gigantic success, and indeed, it is a masterpiece. It is wonderfully operatic and requires great voices and a great conductor to do it justice. There are more than a dozen recordings of the work available, but this new one is the best yet.
The four soloists are among the greatest stars of the new generation of opera singers. Soprano Anna Netrebko is in ravishingRead more voice in her big solo, “Inflammatus” (“Set on fire, may I be defended by you, O Virgin, on the Day of Judgment”), with fine trills and a pair of huge, ecstatic high Cs, and she blends gloriously with mezzo Joyce DiDonato in the duet “Quis est homo”, with its odd, chromatic, unison scales. DiDonato shines in her solo and in ensembles as well. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, whose voice becomes more appealing with each recording, leads off the soloists in the opening with great tenderness and makes his solo, “Cujus animam” (“Her soul, searing…was pierced by a sword”), sound easy, including an ascent to a solid, handsome high D-flat. Bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s solo is sung with great feeling and attention to dynamics, and his part in the a cappella “Eja mater” with chorus is potent and prayerful.
Pappano sticks rigidly to Rossini’s dynamic markings, which can move dramatically from piano to forte in a bar of music and that ask for several of the sections to end slowly and at a true pianissimo, heightening the tension. He also gets the brass to shine brilliantly in the “Inflammatus”. The chorus is spectacular, varying between a prayerful whisper and full throttle in the “Eja mater” and perfectly keeping up with the double fugue that ends the piece. The recording occasionally favors the soloists but is faithful to both the eerie, quiet sections and the Rossinian free-for-all.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
ROSSINI Stabat Mater • Antonio Pappano, cond; Anna Netrebko (sop); Joyce DiDonato (mez); Lawrence Brownlee (ten); Ildebrando d’Arcangelo (bs); Santa Cecilia Natl Acad O & Cho • EMI 6 40529 (57:57 Text and Translation)
On a trip to Spain with his friend Alejandro Aguado in 1831, Rossini was disconcerted to discover that the Archdeacon of Madrid wished to commission a new work, suggesting a Stabat Mater. Because the Archdeacon was a close friend of Aguado, Rossini reluctantly agreed to compose the piece, with the provision that the Archdeacon have no right to sell or publish the work. After completing sections 1 and 5–9, Rossini lost interest in the work and asked his friend Giovanni Tadolini to complete it. This composite work was premiered in 1833. When the Archdeacon died in 1837, the manuscript was sold and eventually purchased by the Parisian music publisher Aulangier. Rossini eventually recovered the manuscript and composed sections 2–4 in place of Tadolini’s work as well as adding a final “Amen.” The revised work was premiered in 1841, with Donizetti conducting. The music is of high quality, although some sections do not quite reflect the sorrowful nature of the text.
Pappano conducts the Stabat Mater like the glorified operatic music that it is, highlighting the drama and emphasizing the theatrical nature of Rossini’s inspiration. The “Inflammatus” (track 8) sounds like a precursor of the Dies irae from Verdi’s Requiem. Pappano keeps tight control of the chorus and orchestra, which both perform wonderfully for him.
The soloists are very impressive. I have not heard much of Anna Netrebko’s work, and I was expecting a brighter tone than the dark quality she exhibits here. She occasionally sounds a little uncomfortable in her low-lying role. I don’t want to overemphasize this, however; her contribution is a positive one. About the remaining soloists I have no reservations. They are all splendid, and the voices of the four soloists blend well in their duets and quartets.
I compared this recording with Carlo Maria Giulini’s recording on Deutsche Grammophon. In all 10 movements, Giulini is slower than Pappano, for a total difference of 7:24. However, in this case slower does not equal slack. Giulini is just as dramatic as Pappano and leads a distinguished recording. Giulini also has an all-star cast of soloists: Katia Ricciarelli, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Dalmacio Gonzalez, and Ruggero Raimondi. Good as they are, they are bested by Pappano’s soloists. This is especially true of the tenor. Lawrence Brownlee’s beautiful voice and ringing tone easily surpass Gonzalez. Joyce DiDonato has a lighter voice than Valentini Terrani, who is really an alto rather than the mezzo-soprano required for the music. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo’s dark and solid bass is a thing of beauty.
I heartily recommend this recording to anyone looking to acquire this work.
FANFARE: Ron Salemi
After his hugely successful release of Verdi’s Requiem a year ago, Pappano stakes his claim to another Italian choral masterwork in Rossini’s Stabat Mater and the results are magnificent. Pappano, in fact, sees the Stabat Mater as a forerunner of the Verdi Requiem saying, “The desperation and the drama is already there”. And how! As with Verdi’s Requiem any conductor has to make his decision about whether this is a work of spiritual devotion or operatic drama. Pappano nails his colours to the mast from the outset: he sees this as a work of red-blooded Italian passion, a natural successor to Rossini’s operas. Listening to it I only once felt drawn towards the devotional: everywhere else Italian passion courses and burns through this work, and it is all the better for it!
Pappano drives the music forwards with red-blooded vigour but it never sounds coarse. After the eerie opening the main chorus and quartet beat with strident fervour, and the control of both orchestra and soloist in Pro peccatis is energetic and purposeful. The Inflammatus is hair-raising and the final fugue utterly electrifying. Only in the final quartet, Quando corups morietur, did I feel him drawn more towards the devotional end of things, but this was welcome in the midst of the surrounding drama. The orchestra play for him like gods, utterly in tune with his concept of the piece and finer, even, than they were in the Verdi Requiem. He has done a wonderful job with them since taking over as their director and this disc is their finest achievement to date.
We are lucky indeed that Pappano can tempt such a starry line-up of soloists to join him in Rome. Anna Netrebko gives her all in a hell-for-leather account. I’ve never been convinced by Netrebko as a bel canto singer, but that isn’t a problem here as she wears her heart on her sleeve like a true Romantic. She also blends well with her companions, though, most especially Joyce DiDonato in the Quis est homo. DiDonato’s voice carries beautiful purity in contrast to Netrebko’s lustrous silkiness and her Fac, ut portem really pulls on the heartstrings. Lawrence Brownlee has a marvellous ring to his voice, rising to a great climax in the Cujus animam but blending into the ensembles well, while Ildebrando d’Arcangelo brings dark grandeur to the bass solos, most notably the Pro peccatis.
The Santa Cecilia chorus sing magnificently too, most especially in the unaccompanied Eja Mater, and their vocal colour burns with unmistakably Italian energy. If you want the Stabat Mater as a prayer then look somewhere else, but I found this disc absolutely enthralling: after the final bars had stormed out of my speakers I even found myself letting out an involuntary “bravo”! An excellent release and yet another feather in the cap of all the performers.
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Stabat materby Gioachino Rossini Performer:
Lawrence Brownlee (Tenor),
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano),
Anna Netrebko (Soprano),
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Bass)
Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,
Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1832/1842; Italy Date of Recording: 07/2010
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Wonderful recordingOctober 18, 2013By Les S. (Albany, NY)See All My Reviews"I had the great fortune to hear a spectacular performance of this work in New York recently (Mostly Mozart Orchestra). I especially wanted to hear this concert because I had been part of the chorus for an amateur performance of the piece thirty years ago. Why it isn't performed more often, I don't understand. My father lent me two different recordings of the piece: one very old one with Elizabeth Grummer as the soprano soloist and one more recent recording with Carol Vaness as the soprano soloist. Neither of these impressed me - and in fairness, probably no recording could match the visceral excitement of the live performance I heard - so I sought another recording and purchased the Pappano. All the forces involved are excellent - the quartet of soloists, the chorus and the orchestra - and it certainly comes close to the quality of the live performance. Highly recommended!"Report Abuse