Almost 300 years after Pergolesi composed his Stabat Mater the piece’s essential argument is still raging. Is this a piece for the opera-house or the church? How much drama is too much drama? When does heightened spirituality tip into outright sensuality?


Riccardo Minasi’s new recording with Ensemble Resonanz demands answers, forces reassessments and challenges everything you thought you knew or felt about the work. Consider this your advance warning: this is a no-holds-barred, ferocious, extreme account that manages simultaneously to upend all expectations and then offer up so instinctively right and natural an alternative that it’s hard to return to other recordings. I’m still reeling.

It’s as though Minasi takes a painted period miniature and copies it out onto a giant canvas – each detail of articulation, colour, tempi, dynamics, expression is suddenly magnified many times over. Feel the unexpected weight of those unwilling steps approaching the cross in the opening movement thudding through the cellos, the resolute refusal in both voices to warm into vibrato on “pendebat” (hanging) – an image of the suspended Christ so horrifying seen through...