Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi is best remembered for the sacred work Stabat mater, a meditation on the Virgin Mary’s suffering during the Crucifixion. Although other works of Pergolesi’s are performed, his Stabat mater is by far the most popular, especially in the current year—Pergolesi was born three hundred years ago, a fact that has inspired many performances and recordings of the Stabat mater.
The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin’s new Harmonia Mundi recording of the Stabat mater—with soprano Anna Prohaska and alto Bernarda Fink—is just stunning, as is the orchestral playing. The program also includes a Pergolesi Salve Regina and instrumental pieces by Antonio Vivaldi and Pietro Locatelli—all beautifully performed. If there’s one recording of the Stabat mater that is a must have, it’s this one.
Musica Antiqua Cologne’s 1994 release with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter of Handel’s Marian cantatas is a truly exciting recording. Directed by Reinhard Goebel, the ensemble performs in the intense and extroverted way for which they’ve always been known. Von Otter not only matches the ensemble’s intensity, but gives the kind of performance that stays with you long after you’ve put the recording away.