About this Recording
8.553260 - FAURE: Requiem / PERGOLESI: Stabat Mater
English 

Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924)
Requiem, Op. 48

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 - 1736)
Stabat Mater, C.xxvi, 1

During the last thirty years many of our most treasured choral works have been deliberately defamiliarized. Bach's St Matthew Passion, Handel's Messiah, and Mozart's Requiem are celebrated examples of works whose present form and performance standard would have been unrecognizable to audiences three decades ago. As the historical performance movement has crept inevitably towards the music of our own century, performers have begun to reinterpret the music of the nineteenth century in the light of current musicological thinking.

Before John Rutter's edition of the early 1980s Fauré's Requiem was generally known as a concert piece for large choir and full orchestra. The original instrumentation was, however, quite different, in some performances using a choir of around thirty singers accompanied by four violas, four cellos, solo violin, and organ. The intimacy of the scoring was a deliberate reaction against Berlioz's Requiem which Fauré detested because of its use of massed forces to emphasize the horror of purgatorial suffering. The first performance of the Requiem took place liturgically at the Madeleine in Paris in 1888. There were at that stage only five movements; the Offertoire and Libera me (the two movements involving the Baritone soloist) were added 1ater. In fact the Libera me had been completed as an independent work for voice and organ ten years before; the Offertoire was the only movement to postdate the first performance of the Requiem. The performance presented here uses the work's original instrumentation whilst including all seven movements of the finished Requiem. It is based upon the edition prepared by Denis Arnold in 1983 for Schola Cantorum of Oxford which was subsequently performed at St Louis-des-Invalides in Paris in July 1984.

This recording is an attempt to move Fauré's liturgical music from the concert hall to the church. In particular, the reconstruction of nineteenth- century French ecclesiastical pronunciation and the restoration of Fauré's preferred phrasing are just two of the most useful elements in the search for the composers intentions. To those familiar with the more expansive versions of Fauré's Requiem there will inevitably be unfamiliar textures in this performance. However, few of Fauré's romantic gestures are lost in the chamber version, and moreover, the reserved translucence of the instrumentation emphasizes the fact that the Requiem was originally designed for liturgical performance.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, the family name by which he is generally known derived from his great-grandfathers place of origin, Pergola, was born at Iesi in 1710, the third child of a surveyor. Weak in health as a child, possibly with some deformity and a limp probably of tubercular origin, he seems to have had his first musical training in his native town. Aristocratic patronage enabled him to study in the early 1720s at the Conservatorio dei Poveri in Naples, where his composition teachers were Gaetano Greco, followed by Leonardo Vinci and Francesco Durante. At the conservatory he was a chorister and a violinist and apparently made his public début as a composer with a sacred drama, Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione di San Guglielmo Duca d' Aquitania, in 1731, performed at the monastery of S Agnello Maggiore. This marked the end of his period of study at the conservatory.

Pergolesi's first commissioned opera, Salustia, was staged without significant success at the S Bartolomeo Theatre in Naples in January 1732 and in the same year he became maestro di cappella to Prince Ferdinando Colonna Stigliano, an aide to the Viceroy of Naples. In September his comedy La frate 'nnamorato was successfully mounted at the Teatro dei Fiorentini, to be revived in following years. His greatest operatic success, however, came in 1733 with La serva padrona, an intermezzo for his opera seria Il prigonier superbo. La serva padrona was to enjoy enormous success, its second staging in Paris in 1752 being at the root of the Querelle des Bouffons, the contention that divided Parisian factions into partisans of the Italian or the French operatic school.

Meanwhile Pergolesi's position in the musical life of Naples seemed assured, with commissioned Mass and Vesper settings in honour of St Emedius, patron of the city and protector against earthquakes, and appointment, with right of succession, as deputy to the city maestro di cappella. Political disturbances, with the ousting of the Austrian viceroy and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Naples under King Carlos of Bourbon, took Pergolesi briefly to Rome, where, in 1734, a Mass setting commissioned by a Neapolitan nobleman, the Duke of Maddaloni, created a sensation. Pergolesi returned to Naples as maestro di cappella to the Duke, whose family was closely associated with the King. His first opera after his return, however, was badly received. Rome, on the other hand, provided a further opportunity with a commission for the opera L'Olimpiade, staged at the Teatro Tordinona but apparently unsuccessful, although it was soon mounted elsewhere and continued in international repertoire.

By 1735 Pergolesi's health had deteriorated very considerably and the following year he took up residence in the Franciscan monastery at Pozzuoli to prepare, it seems, for his death. It was here, in the last months of his life, that he wrote his Stabat mater, for the fraternity of the Church of S Maria dei Sette Dolori in Naples, a church that is the site of the Maddaloni family tomb. His cantata da camera Orfeo also dates from this final period of his life. He died on 16th March 1736.

Pergolesi's early death and the wide fame accorded him posthumously has led to very considerable confusion in matters of attribution, as others seized the opportunity of using his name, so that any modem listing of his works must include a large category of compositions that are either doubtful or clearly spurious, some of these misattributions finding their way into Stravinsky's Pulcinella. There is, of course, no doubt about the origin of either the Stabat mater or Oifeo. The first, indeed, had exceptionally wide circulation, with publication in London in 1749 and adaptation by Johann Sebastian Bach, and remains the most often heard of all Pergolesi's compositions.

Pergolesi's Stabat mater, for soprano and alto, with string orchestra and basso continuo, was intended to replace the setting by Alessandro Scarlatti for the same resources and fraternity. It opens with a setting of the first stanza for the two voices, which enter after a brief and moving instrumental introduction, music that Mozart might have had in mind as he wrote his own Requiem half a century later. The second stanza is a more animated soprano solo, the instrumental and subsequent vocal trills suggesting the piercing sword of the text. O quam tristis et afflicta brings the soprano and alto together - in a more reflective mood, to be followed by the fourth stanza, allotted to the alto and Handelian in its operatic vigour. The soprano introduces the fifth stanza, the question proposed countered by the following interrogative stanza from the alto, before the two voices blend, at first in sad reflection and then in animated conclusion. Vidit suum dulcem Natum is set for soprano, with an affecting instrumental introduction and hesitant pointing of the words dum emisit spiritum. The alto invokes the Mother of Christ, fons amoris, with deepest feeling. The two join together again in a vigorous fugal Fac ut ardeat cor meum, to which the setting of the twelfth stanza, Sancta Mater, istud agas, and the following verses, for the two voices, offer a gentler contrast, the soprano answered by the alto before both join together in Fac me vere tecum flere. The following alto solo has a dramatic instrumental introduction, echoed in the vocal line. The soprano and alto join in a duet of greater cheer, continued more reflectively in the sanguine expectation of salvation expressed in the final stanza, capped by an energetic Amen.


Close the window