DVOŘÁK Stabat Mater
Although well represented in the catalogue, there is always room for another strong, heartfelt performance of Dvořák’s first major sacred choral work. This oratorio-length setting of the medieval sequence Stabat mater was composed in 1876-77, as a direct response to personal grief, initially to the death of a two-day old daughter, and later to the further loss of an 11-month daughter and three-year-old son. As befits such an emotionally intense text, this work is melodically rich, with a hint of Verdi’s influence, incomparably scored with characteristically piquant touches in the woodwind and glowing support from the heavy brass.
The mix of solo and choral writing is entirely satisfying, giving the chorus plenty of opportunities to rest and recharge their collective vocal batteries. The most technically taxing responsibilities are directed towards the soloists. Of the quartet recorded here, Peter Rose’s commanding resonance is full of warmth. Janice Watson floats with a beautiful ease, especially in her duet with the tenor, Peter Auty, who sounds to be under some strain at times. Alas, such is the weight of her vibrato that Dagmar Pecková’s agility is impaired in her aria ‘Inflammatus et accensus’. From an orchestral point of view this performance is a triumph, with flawless playing. The LPO Choir also make an excellently incisive contribution. Järvi’s adoption of flowing (and occasionally brisk) tempi helps to drive the piece on.
The recorded balance is ideal, with a wide and warm choral spread and vivid, natural orchestral colours. An interpretation to savour.