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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, January 2011

Naxos has collated its Haydn Masses series into a single box [8.508009] so if you fancy having the full works in a single handy collection these performances, conducted by J. Owen Burdick and Jane Glover, may fit your bill, and price bracket. Single discs are still available, and this one is no exception; a 2003 recording of the once-neglected 1767 Stabat Mater.

The forces are familiar ones, given their prominence in the Naxos series. The direction and execution are able, the singing generally good, phrasing attractive. An affirmative spirit courses through the performance and it mitigates the sometimes funereal performances that we used to hear. The orchestral forces, the Rebel Baroque Orchestra, employ period instruments and practice, which gives a not unwelcome astringency to some—but by no means all—of the playing. The balance between solo voices, orchestral solos and the choir is a just one.

There is, in fact, little with which to cross swords in a performance as attractive as this. Comparing older, conventional performances with one such as this is not comparing like-with-like, but if one were to do so, one should point out that the famous old Laszlo Heltay recording, with a stellar vocal line up of Augér, Hodgson, Rolfe-Johnson and Howell, is invariably a minute slower in all the more extensive movements, which adds considerably to the total timing, and also the sense of incipient gravity and contemplation generated by such tempos.

Here we find articulation is bright and tight. Stephen Sands has a quite light tenor, but it’s mobile and relatively flexible. He starts the work, soloistically, with the Stabat mater dolorosa and when he follows bass Richard Lippold in the Virgo virginum praeclara—and before the other two voices enter—he blends well with his colleagues. Luthien Brackett has an attractive, well focused alto, and Ann Hoyt sports a bright, youthful soprano. She makes a fine showing in Quis non posset contristari where spruce winds and a well balanced organ are strongly to the fore. Understandably perhaps she snatches at breaths a touch in the Sancta Mater, istud agas. Lippold is a pleasantly sonorous bass, doing well by Pro peccatis suae gentis. The chorus, which is the Trinity Choir, come into its own in the concluding Paradisi Gloria where the bases don’t over-part the tenors—and indeed all sections sing well.

The acoustic works in favour of the performance, though there is some ambient noise floating about, audible at higher levels. I didn’t find it especially distracting. So if you fancy an original instrument performance with good soloists, band and choir and a brisk, attractive tempo, and all at a bargain price bracket, I’m not sure you could do better than this.

Lindsay Koob
American Record Guide, September 2010

This most attractive performance (if you like period sound and style) of Haydn’s early masterpiece is also a part of Naxos’s entirely respectable box set of the complete masses (8.508009)—but you should know that it’s available individually.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2010

During his lifetime the Stabat Mater of 1767 was among Haydn’s most popular sacred scores, but has in more recent times dropped from fashion. Its origin was probably to follow the tradition of performing a new work for Easter Friday in the chapel of the Esterhazy palace, and would have followed his recent appointment as kapellmeister there. But then he obviously thought highly enough of the finished product to seek performances outside of those confines, enjoying a premiere in Vienna the following year. It follows the usual pattern of mixing solos given to four singers with choral sections, the fulsome and often pungent orchestral part being a major contributing factor. The sleeve note comments that ‘over half of the movements are slow and nearly half are in minor keys, offering little respite from the unrelenting doleful mood’. That message has not been passed to the performers on this new release, and if the innocent ear ignores the text, it will enjoy an account of much happiness and celebration. Among the solo quartet the soprano, Ann Hoyt, brings a lovely and innocent quality to the air, Quis non posset contristari, the conductor, J. Owen Burdick, keeping the score pressing forward with admirable urgency throughout. His small choir from New York’s Trinity Church perform with enthusiasm, their final Paradisi gloria full of good things. The New York period instrument group, Rebel, bring an authentic quality with its peppery woodwind, and though the disc recorded in 2003 is a little opaque, it has ample impact in such tracks as the big chorus, Eja Mater, fons amoris.

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