SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

PERGOLESI: Stabat Mater; A. SCARLATTI: Stabat Mater – Susanne Ryden, soprano/ Mikael Bellini, countertenor/ Stockholm Baroque Orchestra – Proprius

A pared-down version that for once works well

Published on December 25, 2007

PERGOLESI: Stabat Mater; A. SCARLATTI: Stabat Mater – Susanne Ryden, soprano/ Mikael Bellini, countertenor/ Stockholm Baroque Orchestra – Proprius
PERGOLESI: Stabat Mater; A. SCARLATTI: Stabat Mater – Susanne Ryden, soprano/ Mikael Bellini, countertenor/ Stockholm Baroque Orchestra – Proprius multichannel SACD PRSACD 2040, 69:09 ****:

As you may know, I am not an advocate of skimpy string ensembles playing baroque music. (Here we have a string quintet, one each for each part.) Nor am I particularly enamored of counter-tenors generally speaking, finding that they too often counter the tenor of the music, and sound androgynous. But I must confess that Mikael Bellini on this recording has me won over completely. He simply doesn’t sound the way this breed usually does—the voice is robust and firm, quite solid with little evidence of falsetto-itis, and technically more than able to handle the demands of the composers.

Ms. Ryden does the same. Looking at her picture she seems a tad older than some sopranos I have heard in this music, but with this age comes an interpretative facility that seems to understand the devotional texts of these works in a way that many do not. As far as the instruments go, well, they do try to make an argument that a larger ensemble would defeat the purpose of the intimate and spiritual flavor both composers are trying to create here (both done for church services), and I have trouble disagreeing with this. As much as I love the June Anderson/Cecelia Bartoli/ Charles Dutoit/ Montreal Symphony recording on Decca of the Pergolesi, this one is perhaps a little more subtle in its pious awakenings, and it has convinced me of its validity.

Sound is excellent, surround done nicely, though the church it was recorded at reverbs ever-so-much too much. Nonetheless, the catalog is not overflowing with this coupling, and it is certainly a fine one.

– Steven Ritter
 




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