Pergolesi (La) Serva Padrona
It was a performance in Paris in 1752 of Pergolesi's celebrated intermezzo La serva padrona which sparked off that celebrated pamphleteer squabble, the ''Querelle des Bouffons''. It was a confrontation between supporters of Italian music and supporters of French, in which the king and queen took opposing sides. Successful performances of Pergolesi's charming little domestic contretemps are few and far between but this version, recorded over 20 years ago is certainly one of them. The two singers are first-rate, acting their parts up to the hilt, but thankfully not beyond it as so many others have done. The leader and director of the Collegium Aureum, Franzjosef Maier, sets mostly ideal tempos for the arias and, even more importantly perhaps in a work of this kind, keeps the recitative moving at a brisk pace and in a lively conversational way. This for me is one of the most persuasive features of the performance.
Much less commendable, though, is the absence of any translation of the Italian libretto. It is, of course, perfectly easy to understand what is happening in broad terms, both by listening to the vocal inflexions and by reading the synopsis, which is translated. But there are plenty of subtle details which are apt to be overlooked unless you follow the text closely. Nevertheless, the present package is an improvement on the original which included no libretto at all and an accompanying note in German only.
Even so, this strikes me as far and away the more convincing of the two versions of Pergolesi's intermezzo currently available in The Classical Catalogue. The alternative Hungaroton version with the Capella Savaria is much more recent and is performed at a lower baroque pitch than the quasi-authentic Collegium Aureum. But it lacks the esprit which makes the older version so enjoyable. The recorded sound is clear and spacious. An attractive issue, though surely more appropriate at mid-price.'