- Dixit Dominus, for soloists, double chorus & orchestra
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi had a tragically short career, living just 26 years and producing most of his mature works over a period of about five years. This compilation of three previously released CDs of performances conducted by Claudio Abbado offers a generous introduction to some of the composer's most popular sacred choral works, plus his "Violin Concerto in B flat major." The most familiar and substantial work is the 40-minute "Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and orchestra," which was the most frequently published composition of the 18th century. It is also Pergolesi's most frequently performed and recorded sacred piece, and there is no lack of very fine recorded versions. This one, featuring soprano Rachel Harnisch and contralto Sara Mingardo makes a splendid introduction to the work and should be of interest to anyone who loves this poignant music. Both soloists have expressive voices of exceptional purity and intensity, beautifully suited to this alternately serene and wrenching score. Mingardo is particularly striking in the aria, "Fac, ut portem Christi mortem," in which she descends into a baritonal range with startlingly solid oaken timbre. The cheery, playful tone of the "Violin Concerto" reveals the composer's versatility and Giuliano Carmignola nails its technical demands with lovely tone and disarming grace. The set includes two settings of Salve Regina, one featuring Mingardo and one with soprano Julia Kleiter. In addition to an assortment of briefer sacred works, the set includes the half-hour "Missa S. Emidio for soprano, contralto, two choirs, two orchestras, and basso continuo." Consisting only of the Kyrie and Gloria, the mass demonstrates Pergolesi's ability to write exuberant, joyful choral music. In spite of its name, the Bologna-based Orchestra Mozart plays music of all eras, and under Claudio Abbado's leadership brings just the right fleet agility to this music, which is balanced between the Baroque and Classical eras. The sound of the live performances is mostly clean and well balanced with a warm ambience, but it is less clear in capturing the massed forces of the "Missa S. Emidio" than in the more transparently scored works. This set, along with a recording of the comic opera "La serva padrona," would give the listener an excellent introduction to the scope of Pergolesi's gifts.