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Pergolesi and A Scarlatti –

Stabat Mater

Gemma Bertagnolli - soprano
Sara Mingardo - contralto

Concerto Italiano – cond Rinaldo Alessandrini

Naïve OP 30441 –   1998 – 80 minutes

Early in the 18th century, when Alessandro Scarlatti was resident in Naples, the Cavalieri delli Vergine dei Dolori engaged him to provide a setting of the Stabat Mater as the focal point of their Lenten devotions.    A few years later they discarded it in favour of a new commission from Pergolesi, whose works had almost overnight become the “hot ticket” of the day.

Pergolesi’s version was immediately hailed as a significant masterpiece and milestone in the development of religious music, whilst Scarlatti’s was consigned to the obscurity, surviving in the form of a copy in a Florence library.

This CD provides listeners with the unique opportunity to hear and compare the two works, presented in reverse order of composition.

Melody is central to Pergolesi’s approach with the voices intertwining in solo or combination and floating delicately above the instrumental line.  It would be a worthy contender for inclusion in a compilation entitled “the most beautiful music in the world” and yet it also
provides a faithful reflection of the agony of the sorrowing mother. The fact that the composer was virtually on his own death bed when he wrote the piece may have contributed to its heart-rending quality.

Scarlatti’s piece is more solid in character, thickly orchestrated, yet presenting the words with great clarity – an example of classical polyphony at its finest.  It ends with an unexpectedly
uplifting Amen as the voices alternate in splendid intricacy.

These are delightfully expressive performances by period specialists with the voices of Gemma Bertagnolli and Sara Mingardo blending attractively. Rinaldo Alessandrini  takes the Pergolesi at a fairly brisk pace, explained in his descriptive notes as following the instructions of the composer’s autographed score.

It’s a very pleasing combination, and provides a full 80 minutes of music.

Serena Fenwick

See the general introduction and listings for this series