This being a Swedish recording, you get photos of the performers (and of rocks in water) that look as though they came straight out of a 1950s Ingmar Bergman movie. The interpretations, though, are elegant and not particularly dark. The pairing here is the natural one: Pergolesi's swan-song Stabat Mater of 1736 and the entirely worthy work it was written to replace in the repertoire of a Neapolitan Catholic fraternity: the Stabat Mater of Alessandro Scarlatti. The Pergolesi work has a stark simplicity compared with Scarlatti's, but that was partly a function of his modernity; the temptation is to perform the work with death haunting every line (Pergolesi was indubitably very sick with tuberculosis at the time). The Stockholm Baroque Orchestra (so designated despite the fact that there is only one player per part, plus a small organ and archlute for continuo), soprano Susanne Rydén, and countertenor Mikael Bellini (both singers are Swedes) generally avoid this tendency, offering creamy renditions that linger on dissonances but keep things moving briskly and are somehow a bit on the dry side. The chief attractions of their performances, in both the Pergolesi and the Scarlatti pieces, can be summed up in the concept of good ensemble work; Bellini is not a terribly well-known countertenor outside Sweden, but he has a sharp-edged sound that blends beautifully with Rydén's here. Rydén opens up on long notes (hear her Pergolesi "Quis est homo," track 5), and the two achieve some spectacular acoustic effects within the small late eighteenth century Swedish church where the music was recorded. In general this is an unimpeachable Stabat Mater pairing that will be of interest to those who like historical performances of these works (and especially those who favor a countertenor in the second vocal line rather than a child singer or female contralto) but aren't down with the operatic intensity brought by Rinaldo Alessandrini and his fiery Italian friends.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Stabat mater, for soprano, alto, strings & organ in F major|
|Stabat Mater, for soprano, alto, 2 violins & continuo|