The venerable Akademie für alte Musik, Berlin, here takes aim at a bevy of lush, operatic recordings of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's two late masterpieces, and shows that these German veterans still have a thing or two to teach the upstart Italians who have revolutionized the vocal music of the late Baroque in recent years. The star of the show is the string orchestra of the Akademie itself, not as small as is the fashion, with eight violins, four violas, and a single cello. But the coordination is flawless, and first violinist and concertmaster Bernhard Forck coaxes an awesome purring sound from the players' purring catgut strings. It's showcased in the two instrumental pieces that properly separate the two Pergolesi vocal works; sample the opening Vivaldi Sinfonia in B minor, RV 169, "Al Santo Sepolcro," for the full effect. The range of instrumental sounds coming from the ensemble is less dramatic than those from some of the Italian groups, but just as effective when the strings light up for a section like the "Inflammatus" in the Pergolesi Stabat Mater's final pages. The vocal soloists, soprano Anna Prohaska and Argentine alto Bernarda Fink, make a gorgeous contrast of their own with Prohaska's shining youthful voice playing off the stately, tragic capabilities of Fink and seeming to capture the mix of brilliance and death-haunted consciousness of the doomed composer's final months. This is a standout performance of Pergolesi's sacred masterworks, augmented by top-notch sound from the Teldec studio complex in Berlin, and it can stand with any Pergolesi disc on the market.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sinfonia in B minor, RV 169 "Al Santo Sepolcro"|
|Concerto a 4 in E flat major "Il Pianto d'Arianna"|