Notes and Editorial Reviews
Stabat Mater. Salve Regina.
String Concerto in f
Philippe Pierlot, dir; Núria Rial (sop); Carlos Mena (alt); Ricercar Consort (period instruments)
MIRARE MIR 006 (54:00
comes in such a variety of styles and vocal permutations of the possible
treble-soprano-contralto-male alto lineup that preferences among a number of excellent versions are likely to be dictated by such matters. In employing a soprano and male alto, this latest addition to the lists features the vocal lineup that most closely approximates the soprano and alto castrato for whom Pergolesi would have written the work.
No matter how many times one hears the
, its bittersweet ambiguity, hovering between candle-lit chapel and theater in inimitable Neapolitan manner, continues to fascinate and intrigue. The new recording starts with a beautifully played orchestral introduction, gentler than is often the case, and with the dissonance perhaps not quite as heart-piercingly penetrative as it can be. Yet, from Carlos Mena?s superbly controlled first ?Stabat,? and the perfectly matched balance of voices when Núria Rial enters, this is self-evidently going to be a performance of special quality. Not only is the singing quite extraordinarily beautiful, the long cantabile lines floated with total security of pitch, but ornamentation is sung with flawless command. Both singers possess the proper trill that is obligatory in this work, but one need only listen to Rial?s exquisitely shaped ?lacrimosa? to be aware of being in the presence of real musicianship.
The introduction to ?Cujus animam? might have been articulated more precisely, but Rial?s tenderly expressive account again soon makes amends, and the warm sensuality of the strings (a feature of the performance) in ?O quam tristis? is most affecting, as is the heaven-sent blending of the interweaving voices. One striking feature of the performance is the unusual weight and prominence given to the penitential verses starting at ?Fac et portem,? where Mena conveys beautifully the sufferings of the sinner, fully aware of the rhetorical implications.
It does seem, however, that recent versions also have to have their moment of eccentricity, almost as if making a statement that something different is being brought to the work. In the case of Antonio Florio?s otherwise excellent recent Eloquentia disc (not to date reviewed in
), it was an extraordinarily slow final ?Quando corpus,? also taken at pretty leisurely pace in the present recording. Here, it is the exceptionally fast tempo for ?Quae moerebat? that comes as a shock. I don?t find the excess of either Florio or Philippe Pierlot convincing, for all the virtuoso technique displayed by Mena in negotiating the notes at such a speed. Notwithstanding such a lapse, this is an exceptional performance sung with excellent diction and great insight. Irrespective of the voice type employed, I know of no performance more affecting than this.
It was an inspired idea to place Durante?s short, but intensely felt string Concerto in F Minor as a link between the
and the alto version of
, which is also in F Minor. Another late composition, it inhabits a world very similar to that of
, the opening indeed very strongly resembling that of the more famous work. Mena?s performance adds fresh laurels to those already garnered in the
, being again sung with full, rich tonal quality, and flawlessly drawn line that never precludes insight into the
of such strong lines as ?Ad te clamamus,? with its ?sighing, moaning, weeping in this vale of tears.? His final plea would surely melt the rocks of that vale, let alone the ?mother of mercy.? Finally, there must also be praise for Mirare?s sumptuous presentation; by contrast, there is none for the decidedly parsimonious playing time offered.
FANFARE: Brian Robins
Works on This Recording
Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Nuria Rial (Soprano),
Carlos Mena (Countertenor)
Written: 1736; Pozzuoli, Italy
Salve Regina by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Carlos Mena (Countertenor),
Nuria Rial (Soprano)
Concerto for Strings no 1 in F minor by Francesco Durante
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