- Stabat Mater for vocal soloists, chorus & orchestra, B. 71 (Op. 58)
Dvorák's "Stabat Mater, Op. 58," was finished in 1880, wrenched out over several years after the death of the composer's daughter. It is a sizable setting that has been largely overlooked in favor of Dvorák's later works, but increasing interest in Romantic-era choral music has brought new performances. It has few specifically Czech elements, gaining its interest partly from its combination of a rather formal quality with strong personal feeling. This reading, conducted by Estonia's Neeme Järvi, is hard to beat. Start with the live engineering from the London Philharmonic Orchestra's new Royal Festival Hall, getting clarity from very large forces. Continue with the soloists: the Verdian sound of soprano Janice Watson is a standout; the thick, intense mezzo Dagmar Pecková may not be to everyone's taste (you can sample it in the "Inflammatus," track 9), but is absolutely distinctive. Järvi deserves his share of the credit as well, with perfect balances in which the soloists are never buried in complex choral-orchestral textures, and fine control over the big climaxes. The London Philharmonic shines in Dvorák's extensive sections of wind writing. But the ones who really carry the performance are the members of London Philharmonic Choir, who maintain perfect blend, pitch, and momentum at double-forte dynamic levels in the magnificent opening "Stabat mater dolorosa" and in the Handelian final fugue on "Amen": even the chords that have the choral singers going at full throttle are shaped and crisp. Exciting, a fine introduction to a neglected Romantic masterpieces, and altogether highly recommended.