Ensemble Turicum

Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti: Stabat Mater

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The Stabat Mater of Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti is a curious animal indeed -- an adaptation of the Stabat Mater of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The work dates from the 1760s, and what is curiouser still is that Brunetti's probable nephew, Antonio Brunetti, created a work based on but still more distant from Pergolesi's in 1825. The booklet uses the words "imitation, plagiarism, and modernization" to describe these works; the plagiarism involved is not the elder Brunetti's but that of the younger, who used his uncle's work without attribution but described his own piece as "in imitation of the estimated Mr. Pergolesi." The 1825 work, which is said to add a good deal of original music, might seem potentially more interesting to the general listener than the Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti work featured here. This "imitation" is strange in itself. It sticks very close to Pergolesi's work in the first six movements; often the music is identical. Then, from the "Vidit suum" soprano aria onward, he goes farther afield although he still uses a good deal of Pergolesi's music, quoting his melodies but breaking them up into lighter Classical-style shapes. The effect is a work that seems to fall into two parts; there is nothing in the original Pergolesi movements that would seem to suggest this kind of treatment. The performers, especially countertenor Luiz Alves da Silva, are superb, with a sweet, lyrical sound intensified by the fine sound environment of a Zurich church. The entire enterprise constitutes an interesting chapter in the reception of Pergolesi and of the Stabat Mater specifically (which influenced composers as late as Boccherini), and it seems to suggest the transplantation into Italy of one of the non-Western traditions in which music slowly evolves in the hands of subsequent interpreters rather than being remade by individual hands. It's of interest for those whose minds have a speculative cast.

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