Gioacchino Rossini Stabat Mater 1832 Giovanna d'Arco Cullagh Pizzolato Sola Palazzi FoglianiGioacchino Rossini
Stabat Mater (1832 version), Giovanna d’Arco

Majella Cullagh: soprano, Marianna Pizzolato: mezzosoprano, José Luis Sola: tenor, Mirco Palazzi: bass

Camerata Bach Choir, Poznán
Chorus master: Tomasz Potkowski
Wurttember Philharmonic Orchestra
Antonino Fogliani, conductor

Naxos, 2016

If Gioacchino Rossini’s Stabat Mater exists in two versions, it is not due to the Pesarese’s proverbial and perhaps exaggerated sloth, but to his lack of time. After having promised a Stabat Mater to prelate Manuel Fernández Varela during a trip to Spain in 1831, he was not able to complete the task for Good Friday 1832 due to his Parisian duties and was obliged to ask to his friend Giovanni Tadolini to compose the major part of the work, while he would focus on the most important numbers. In this shape, the Stabat Mater was sent to the Spanish prelate and premiered at the chapel of San Felipe el Real on Good Friday 5th April 1833. Tadolini’s skill was not comparable to Rossini’s and for this reason the Pesarese later prevented this score from being published under his name and completed the work himself in 1842.

Almost two centuries later (2011), the 1832 version of Stabat Mater was live recorded during the Rossini festival in Bad Wildbad and this is its world premiere recording. To complete the programme, this album includes also Giovanna d’Arco, a cantata Rossini wrote in the same year of the Stabat Mater with a special dedication to Olimpe Pélissier (who was to be his second wife). The cantata is originally scored for voice and piano, but here it is orchestrated by Marco Taralli The reason to record these two compositions together is the tribute they pay «to the cult of Mary or of motherhood, giving expression to Rossini’s close ties to his own mother» (quote from the booklet).

As for the soloists, some of them are really wonderful, as soprano Majella Cullagh, who sings the Inflammatus wonderfully and who is overall inspired and accurate, and mezzosoprano Marianna Pizzolato, a Rossini specialist who has already sung also the final version of Stabat Mater and Giovanna d’Arco. Pizzolato is remarkable for her velvety voice and sound technique, but above all for her deep understanding of what she is singing, a comprehension that is realized through the best expressivity. This is equally true for Stabat Mater and for the cantata, though in the latter she has the benefit to enjoy the complete attention of the listener. The second recitative Eppur piange is so plenty of emotions and the audacious and firm beginning of Ah, la fiamma che t’esce dal guardo may be considered only the promise of what you will hearing the rest of the aria.

Tenor José Luis Sola is a completely different matter. He is hardly tolerable in his solo aria for his obsolete way of singing and ostentatious sentimentalism, while in the quartet his imprecise intonation is absolutely annoying. Bass Mirco Palazzi is definitely better and his dark voice, his firmness and his obstinate resoluteness to find the right meaning of what he is singing make his performance really outstanding.

I have the impression that the engineering is not generous with the chorus as the Camerata Bach Choir sings gorgeously, but its voices seems to come from far away and some of its strength is lost. As for Antonino Fogliani’s conduction, it is fine but not enthralling.

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