Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, his achingly lovely swan song, was most likely written with two male singers in mind. Yet it's not often recorded that way, and the present release, with a genuine male soprano and alto, represents something rarer still, perhaps because not a lot of male singers can pull off the higher ranges convincingly without belting. Both the singers are billed as countertenors on the album, but Romanian-born Valer Barna-Sabadus, who looks like he just stepped out of a rock & roll dive, is a true soprano. Check out his soaring lines in the "Cujus animan," track 2, for the real news on this album. It's not that he delivers operatic power; plenty of countertenors can do that. It's the lightness and balance -- even a certain soberness -- that fit the work to its intended church ambiance. He can certainly execute the blooming operatic style, which he deploys to perfectly good effect in the choral psalm "Laudate Pueri Dominum," which rounds out the album; it's that he doesn't feel it's appropriate to this particular work. Barna-Sabadus' duets with male alto Terry Wey are gracefully restrained and deeply spiritual. The Neumeyer Consort under Michael Hofstetter, playing historical instruments, keeps the singers front and center but accompanies them sensitively. There are certainly other recordings of the Stabat Mater with greater sentiment, and arguably greater emotional impact, but for sheer vocal beauty and for original use of the male high voice this one is hard to top. Oehms' engineering, as usual, is crystal clear and beautifully attuned to the music, which was recorded in an auditorium at the music school of the University of Mainz.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Laudate pueri Dominum, Psalm 112|