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Pergolesi: Stabat Mater / Blaze, Thomas, Solomon, Florilegium

Pergolesi / Thomas / Blaze / Solomon / Morsches
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Channel Classics   Catalog #: 29810   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Elin Manahan ThomasRobin [Countertenor Vocal] BlazeAshley SolomonJennifer Morsches
Orchestra/Ensemble:  UK) Florilegium (Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here's the way I began my last review of a new recording of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater: "Just when you question the need for yet another recording of . . .(fill in the blank), you hear something--a recording such as this one--that not only erases your doubts, but also reminds you why you keep coming back for more: the performer. You have your favorite works, but you're always curious when someone new performs them; and you even have your favorite version of a particular work, but there's always a chance someone else will come along and give you that sit-up-and-notice reaction."

Indeed, this same response applies here, even in the face of more than 50 available recordings of
Read more this well-loved and vocally challenging work. The piece is so popular--and has been ever since the great explosion of interest in Pergolesi's music following his death at age 26--because it's just so agreeably written, from the well-set parts for the two singers (soprano and alto), the engaging, never cloying solo melodies, and artful, purposeful interaction in the duets, all managed with impressive simplicity of forces and musical means.

Of course, to pull this off successfully requires two solid solo singers with voices of compatible timbre and size, and who share a harmonious rapport that enlivens and sustains the duets. Just as in the reference versions--which remain among my top choices--this current one unquestionably fulfills those requirements, captured in extraordinarily clear, vibrant, room-filling sound, with the kind of life-like presence Channel Classics has spoiled us for all these years.

Welsh soprano Elin Manahan Thomas has a lovely, clear, pleasingly bright tone and all the right stuff for Pergolesi's most lyrical and lively lines; countertenor Robin Blaze never has sounded better, his timbre warmly resonant, his technique fluid and effortless, his intelligence and thoughtful interpretive manner on impressive display--and proving a perfect match for Thomas. Although these two singers have performed as soloists on the same stage before--Messiah; B minor Mass--whoever thought to bring them together for this Stabat Mater is a savvy musical matchmaker. The duets "O quam tristis et afflicta" and "Quis est homo" are highlights, as are Thomas' solo "Vidit suum dulcem natum" and Blaze's "Quae moerebat et dolebat", aided by the perfectly executed rhythmic articulation by the strings.

And speaking of instruments, also to be commended are the Florilegium instrumental players, who include the group's director, flutist Ashley Solomon, and cellist Jennifer Morsches, both of whom offer excellent additions to the program--the delightful (if doubtfully by Pergolesi!) Flute Concerto in G major and the (authentic) Sinfonia in F major for cello and continuo.

Also in the earlier review cited above, I suggested that Andreas Scholl's beautifully sung "O clemens", the concluding aria of the Salve Regina in F minor, should have been the conclusion of the whole recording rather than the A minor Salve Regina that followed. Happily, I got my wish here, with Blaze's own, equally moving and heartfelt "O clemens" at program's end. For those who care about such things, this and the Decca recording (both using period instruments) are pitched a half-tone lower than modern standard pitch, which isn't mentioned in the notes but makes for interesting comparison in an affective sense with the Dorian recording, on standard-tuned modern instruments. Highly recommended (even if you already have one or two others!).

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Elin Manahan Thomas (), Robin [Countertenor Vocal] Blaze ()
Orchestra/Ensemble:  UK) Florilegium (Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; Pozzuoli, Italy 
Venue:  St John The Evangelist, Upper Norwood, 
Length: 36 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Concerto for Flute no 1 in G major by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Ashley Solomon (Flute)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  UK) Florilegium (Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St John The Evangelist, Upper Norwood, 
Length: 13 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Sinfonia for Cello and Basso Continuo in F major by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Jennifer Morsches (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  UK) Florilegium (Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St John The Evangelist, Upper Norwood, 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Salve Regina in F minor by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Robin [Countertenor Vocal] Blaze ()
Orchestra/Ensemble:  UK) Florilegium (Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; Italy 
Venue:  St John The Evangelist, Upper Norwood, 
Length: 13 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Stabat Mater: I. Stabat Mater
Flute Concerto in G: III. Allegro spiritoso

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