The mixture of Pergolesi and Bach on a program is unusual, as the packaging notes on this Harmonia Mundi release freely admit. One connection is that Bach made a version of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, as he did with various other Italian works, mostly by Vivaldi. That version, the motet Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, BWV 1083, isn't often heard, and you might think you're getting it here. In fact you don't: in addition to the Pergolesi there are two rather experimental Bach cantatas for alto solo that aren't particularly Italianate in nature. The performances of these by countertenor Tim Mead have a lumbering quality. The good news is that the Pergolesi itself is very strong, with the contrasting shades of Mead's alto and Lucy Crowe's soprano compelling the listener's attention in the duos (sample the opening "Stabat Mater dolorosa"). The performance combines elements of traditional and historical approaches; the one-per-part instruments of British historical-instrument group La Nuova Musica are clean and sober, while the singers are lush and colorful, and the acoustics of London's All Saints Church effectively encompass the whole. Recommended in parts, even if the whole does not satisfyingly hang together.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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