on 20 March 2007
To correct the erroneous review below, this Warner Elatus reissue of an original Teldec recording IS in fact made using PERIOD instruments and period pitch (Hz=415), with Concentus Musicus Wien, Nicolaus Harnoncourt's excellent original and pioneering period band. It IS a fine recording, and the pairing is excellent, and surprisingly uncommon given the popularity of the two pieces. However, this is not a rich orchestral sound in modern terms, as the previous reviewer wrongly suggests. What should be noted is that it is full-orchestral scoring, rather than the "chamber"-style smaller instrumental forces often used in authentic HIP (Historically Informed Performance) recordings.
This performance is neither thin on scoring or forces, or thin on singing, style, and commitment. It is a highly recommended recording on PERIOD instruments, especially if you are happy to pair the popular Vivaldi piece with the popular Pergolesi piece, both admirably done. Both pieces can perhaps be beaten, but not by much and not on the same disc. Indeed, the only thing to be said against this disc stems from this pairing: just bear in mind that a Vivaldi Gloria paired with lesser-known (but perhaps no less worthy) Vivaldi sacred music, or a Pergolesi Stabat paired with lesser-known (but definitely no less worthy) Pergolesi, just might reveal another of these composers' sacred gems to you in the "filler" material. It may be that, especially if you come to either composer solely through these popular works, a "pure" single-composer recording might introduce you to more Vivaldi on the back of the Gloria, or likewise for Pergolesi, and discover for you the further glories of their respective sacred output. My recommendation, though, would be to get this recording for the sheer joy of it; then buy a different Pergolesi Stabat to hear it paired "en situation" with more Pergolesi (e.g. his Salve Regina or Serva Pedrona); and then buy a different Vivaldi Gloria paired with other Vivaldi to give you the feel for that. This means collecting a little more, expending a little more, and overlapping - but if any Baroque pieces should be collected in multiple, these are they.
If you are interested in more Vivaldi, try Fabio Biondi's recording of his Stabat Mater (with the excellent countertenor David Daniels on Virgin) or his Motets (also Virgin, paired in a Virgin Veritas 2cd with the excellent Galuppi motets); and for the complete Vivaldi sacred music, see Robert King's 11cd box-set on Hyperion. One must also recommend the ongoing Opus111/Naive label's Vivaldi pilgrimage, which is producing outstanding results across the whole spectrum of Vivaldi's output.
For more Pergolesi (as a serious Pergolesi fan I recommend these highly), try the amazing Marian Vespers (with Edward Higginbotham on Erato), and (if you can find it) the excellent Serva Pedrona (with James Bowman on Meridian). I also thoroughly recommend Emma Kirkby's recording of the Stabat Mater (with James Bowman, Christopher Hogwood, and Academy of Ancient Music, mid-price on Decca); and the Alessandrini recording of the Stabat with the excellent Sara Mingardo (budget-price on Naive catalogue-version). Both of those are excellent and strong Stabat recordings, both received accolades (the Alessandrini many awards), and both better Harnoncourt's (it's the Gloria on this Elatus disc under review that is stronger than the Stabat). The Decca disc has the obvious bonus of the outstandingly clear and beautiful Kirkby soprano; the Alessandrini has the interesting bonus of being paired with a Scarlatti Stabat Mater which allows you to compare Stabat compositions of the period. All three (Decca, Naive, and this Elatus) are well recommended.
So, for the Pergolesi/Vivaldi newcomers, this is an excellent starting point, providing the most popular of these composers' sacred output (some might argue the best, but I say only when you've heard and considered the other gems). For those wanting just the Vivaldi Gloria and the Pergolesi Stabat, this is an obvious choice, and you should go ahead with confidence as both of the works are very well recorded and presented here, in strong period-instrument HIP renditions. For those, like this reviewer, with a "penchant for Pergolesi" this is a Stabat worth possessing, as much to hear Harnoncourt, one of the fathers of "period", tackle it as for any pairing or performance-related issue. And for those well versed in Vivaldi, Pergolesi, or both, this is a recording for the curious and for the completist. It is also well worth listening to in comparison/contrast with alternative recordings of either piece. There will doubtless be dissenters, music is a personal and opinion-based beast; you are therefore invited to buy, try and dissent, for the enjoyment is in the listening, and there is much enjoyment here.
One last note: one might consider this cd an excellent pairing of two cornerstones to have to hand when you just want these staples of the genre, thereby saving tracking through box-sets and cd numbers to hear one or the other of these pieces. I treat mine very much like an opera highlights cd, using it to hear the principal pieces without having to open up and scroll through the entire opera, wearing out the opera cds in the process!
NB: all recordings and suggestions offered in this review are PERIOD instrument/pitch HIP recordings. If you prefer modern instruments, none of the above may appeal to you - though you might like to dip a toe??? In which case you will find least offence here.