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Bononcini: Messa; Stabat Mater / Alessandrini, Concerto Italiano

Bononcini / Concerto Italiano Choir & Orch
Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 30537   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonio Maria Bononcini
Performer:  Sara MingardoElena BiscuolaSilvia FrigatoAndrea Arrivabene,   ... 
Conductor:  Rinaldo Alessandrini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Italiano
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A. BONONCINI Mass in g; Stabat Mater Rinaldo Alessandrini, cond; Silvia Frigato (sop); Raffaella Milanesi (sop); Andrea Arrivabene (ct); Elena Biscuola (alt); Sara Mingardo (alt); Valerio Contaldo (ten); Raffaele Giordani (ten); Salvo Vitale (bs); Concerto Italiano Ch & O NAIVE 30537 (80:00 Text and Translation)

When I received this disc, I anticipated listening to sacred music by the rival of George Frederick Handel, Giovanni Battista Read more Bononcini, which has been little recorded save for an early oratorio. Upon opening it, however, I found the music to be by his brother, Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677-1726). Although both came from a musical dynasty, Giovanni achieved international recognition, primarily for his operas, while his younger brother had a solid and rather mundane career as a court composer. That is not to say that he did not have moments of importance. He was well known in Italy as a church composer in both Bologna and Rome before traveling to Vienna in 1700 to join his brother as cellist in the court orchestra. By 1705 Giovanni had left and Antonio was appointed Kapellmeister, a post he held for less than 10 years. By 1713 he had returned to Lombardy, and in 1721 was finally appointed as maestro di cappella to the Este court in Modena, his home base during the post-Vienna years. As a composer, he achieved far less fame for his operas than his brother, composing the bulk of them only later in life, but nonetheless he was considered a figure of note in the Italian musical world of the late Baroque.

As noted, he seemed to have preferred to compose music for the church, although he also gained some fame for his vocal cantatas, many of which compete with his contemporary Alessandro Scarlatti from a musical standpoint. To date, he has been represented on disc with these and other chamber works, including a sampling this year released on Thorofon by La Ninfea, a group of cantatas on Arcana in 2004, and one of his many oratorios, La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista on Tactus back in 1999. His main claim to fame, however, is his Stabat Mater , of which this recording is the third. It first appeared with the Camerata Liguria on Bongiovanni in 1994, and the Collegio di Musica Sacra released their version on Dux a few years later. I found the Bongiovanni fairly unexciting, and I am not familiar with the Collegio’s version, so this particular issue piqued my interest.

The Mass is of the cantata variety, wherein each of the movements is subdivided, either into separate pieces (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo) or multiple tempos (Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei). The conductor states in his liner notes that it “radiates a splendor of inspiration and a profundity comparable to that of the greatest contrapuntists, from Bach downwards.” That is a tall order, though I am confused what that last statement means; it is really a mistranslation of what in French reads “ à partir de Bach ,” or “Bach and afterwards.” So, Bononcini is to be compared with the intricate and complex contrapuntal monuments of Johann Sebastian Bach. Unfortunately, I find that this comparison falls far short. Bononcini is good at what he does, but his fugues and imitation are not up to that level, in my opinion. This does not, however, make it a second-rate work. Though the individual movements are by and large relatively short, the composer endows them with some surprisingly delightful characteristics, not all of which are fugal. The “Christe eleison,” sung with a nice tonal blend by sopranos Raffaella Milanesi and Sara Mingardo, as well as bass Salvo Vitale, is an elegant trio that flows effortlessly and lyrically, with only the occasional punctuation of dissonant harmonies in some nice suspensions. These are also evident in the twisting and turning lines of the Gloria, which contain some of the best and most arduous choral writing next to Vivaldi or Handel. The “Gratias agimus tibi” has a fluid cantus firmus above a ground bass that ranges from a walking line to a chaconne bass. The “Qui tollis” is almost ethereal in its unfolding homophony, a moment of magical majesty. The “Cum sancto spiritu” is a fugue, but where the subject and countersubject often collide before devolving into episodic suspensions. This is quite a unique approach to counterpoint, sounding at moments for all the world more advanced than the time it was written. The Sanctus is hardly solemn, with a rapidly moving bass line above which each lyrical vocal line enters and weaves in and out of each other.

There is of course much more to the Mass, but one should not neglect the Stabat Mater, given that it is a carefully constructed and poignant work. The melting suspensions of the “Quis est homo” are as flowing and emotional as Giovanni Pergolesi; the duet between the violin and alto in the “Eia, mater” has a tortuous line that is underscored by the dotted rhythms of the accompaniment. The slowly evolving homophonic chords of the “Virgo virginum” are nicely transparent, while the “Fac me cruce” is positively Vivaldian in its interplay between the bass voice and strings.

One could go on, but suffice it to say that this recording of the Stabat Mater, at least, supersedes those that have come before. It is a marvelous work, worthy of standing alongside Pergolesi. As for the Mass, it too is a fine composition, though hardly epoch defining. It does, however, complement the Stabat Mater quite well. As for the performance, Alessandrini provides a solid set of tempos and has a good sense of phrasing. The solo voices are uniformly excellent, with good intonation and fine interpretive skills. My only quibble is with the sound. Occasionally the plucked instruments, presumably reinforced by the doubling of the theorbo, produce an almost overwhelming twang in the lower registers. I also find the violins sometimes a bit submerged in the chorus during the Mass. This, however, should not cause any real alarm, for the recording is to be highly recommended for both its performance and the music that it presents.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Stabat Mater in C minor by Antonio Maria Bononcini
Performer:  Sara Mingardo (Alto), Elena Biscuola (Alto), Silvia Frigato (Soprano),
Andrea Arrivabene (Countertenor), Raffaella Milanesi (Soprano), Valerio Contaldo (Tenor),
Raffaele Giordani (Tenor), Salvo Vitale (Bass)
Conductor:  Rinaldo Alessandrini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Italiano
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1723; Italy 
Mass in G minor by Antonio Maria Bononcini
Performer:  Sara Mingardo (Alto), Elena Biscuola (Alto), Silvia Frigato (Soprano),
Andrea Arrivabene (Countertenor), Raffaella Milanesi (Soprano), Valerio Contaldo (Tenor),
Raffaele Giordani (Tenor), Salvo Vitale (Bass)
Conductor:  Rinaldo Alessandrini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Italiano
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 

Sound Samples

Mass in G minor: Kyrie: Kyrie eleison
Mass in G minor: Kyrie: Christe eleison
Mass in G minor: Kyrie: Kyrie eleison
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Et in terra pax
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Laudamus te - Glorificamus te
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Gratias agimus tibi
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Domine Deus, Rex coelestis
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Qui tollis peccata mundi - Suscipe - Miserere nobis
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
Mass in G minor: Gloria: Cum sancto spiritu - Amen
Mass in G minor: Credo: Credo in unum Deum - Et incarnatus est
Mass in G minor: Credo: Crucifixus
Mass in G minor: Credo: Et resurrexit
Mass in G minor: Credo: Et in Spiritum Sanctum - Et in unam sanctam catholicam
Mass in G minor: Sanctus
Mass in G minor: Benedictus
Mass in G minor: Agnus Dei
Stabat Mater: dolorosa
Stabat Mater: O quam tristis et afflicta
Stabat Mater: Quis est homo, qui non fleret
Stabat Mater: Pro peccatis suae gentis
Stabat Mater: Eia, Mater, fons amoris - Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
Stabat Mater: Sancta Mater, istud agas
Stabat Mater: Fac me vere tecum flere
Stabat Mater: Juxta crucem tecum stare
Stabat Mater: Virgo virginum praeclara
Stabat Mater: Fac, ut portem
Stabat Mater: Fac me plagis vulnerari
Stabat Mater: Fac me cruce custodiri
Stabat Mater: Quando corpus morietur - Paradisi gloria

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Remarkable Jewel from the Baroque Period! May 11, 2013 By Clifford H C. (Thompson, MB) See All My Reviews "I just got this disk as a present and I am stunned by the shear quality of the performance and the music. It always amazes me, what is sitting in the archives collecting dust, until its rediscovered. The entire baroque period is awash with these gems waiting to be dusted off and performed. This performance is electrifying. A static shock that builds and builds in every nerve ending making your hand shake. It is exhilarating and exhausting, but above all entertaining. Antonio Maria Bononcini 1677-1726 is a perfect mix of the opera at the time with the sacred. What is amazing is the scale and grandeur of the work. Scored simply for strings and Basso Continuo, soloist and choir, the works radiate a splendor that is so much larger and richer. The Stabat Mater is much more sacred drama. 'Fac me vere tecum flere' when the holy mother experiences the sight of her son dying on the cross is stunning. Sung by Contralto 'Sara Mingardo' is just remarkable and worth the price of the CD alone. It really shows off her amazing range and control. The parts written for the choir require highly trained singers in their own right. The Mass is dense and shows remarkable skill at counterpoint. Bononcini makes incredible use of duets, trios, quartets (the mass contains no actual aria for solo voice). Here to the soloists and choir show their prodigious talents. Concerto Italiano and Rinaldo Alesandrini provide an always stunning performance. The Strings and Basso Continuo are a marvel of ingenuity and always keep the pace of the music just right. A Recording not to be missed for Baroque fans." Report Abuse
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