Rossini’s relationship to religious texts is somewhat ambivalent. The joke is that his Petite Messe Solennelle is neither ‘petite’ nor particularly ‘solennelle’. Similarly, with his Stabat Mater, the listener gets the feeling that this is not so much a devotional piece about Mary grieving at the foot of the cross as a vehicle for high operatic display. Captured live from a performance in Munich’s Herkulessaal some 149 years after the composer’s death, this recording is an opportunity for four rising stars to strut their stuff in the company of an experienced conductor and well-drilled chorus.

The results shine with German efficiency rather than reach out with Latin pathos. Howard Arman is clearly in control, moving things along and getting the job done in just under 55 minutes. Tenor Dmitry Korchak uses his smooth, clear voice well in the Cujus animam, even if there is a slight scramble to get to the famous high D Flat. Rosa Feola is suitably incendiary in the Inflammatus and together with Gerhild Romberger and Mika Kares, the soloists form a well-blended quartet. Respecting the composer’s intentions, Arman has the quartet sing the penultimate, unaccompanied movement rather than following the tradition of giving it to the chorus. This makes for a telling, dramatic contrast with the ensuing, cataclysmic Amen.

For all its admirable qualities, this recording leaves me yearning for a less perfect, more keenly felt account of this uneven yet much loved score.

Composer: Rossini
Composition: Stabat Mater
Performer: Münchner Rundfunkorchester & Rundfunk Chor/Howard Arman
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075847412

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