Gioachino Rossini, Luxemburg Philharmonic, Gustavo Gimeno - Rossini: Stabat Mater

Published Monday 4th April 2022
Gioachino Rossini, Luxemburg Philharmonic, Gustavo Gimeno - Rossini: Stabat Mater
Gioachino Rossini, Luxemburg Philharmonic, Gustavo Gimeno - Rossini: Stabat Mater

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMM905355

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) is today remembered mainly as a composer of opera with some of their overtures being concert standards ("William Tell" being the best known). As an aside, if you have never taken the plunge and tried listening to an opera, Rossini's 'La Cenerentola' ('Cinderella') is an excellent place to start: you know the story and the music is splendid. Rossini's church music is less well known. His 'Petite Messe solennelle' of 1863 is probably the best known but his earlier 'Stabat Mater' is also worth hearing. The words are from an anonymous 13th century Franciscan monk and tell how the mother of Jesus grieved at the site of her son's death. In translation the text is moving but it is the music that translates it in a spiritual experience. Rossini seems to have known how Bach tackled Easter music in his great Easter Passions although Rossini's 'Stabat Mater' is far more than a mere pastiche of JSB. On this recording the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra under Gustavo Gimeno are joined by the Wiener Singverein directed by Johannes Prinz and while orchestra and choir do what they are meant to do and do it very well what has stayed with me is the quality of the four soloists, Maria Agresta, soprano, Daniela Barcellona, mezzo-soprano, René Barbera, tenor, and Carlo Lepore, bass. The four blend well and the audio quality is outstanding. While the work was commissioned by the Archdeacon of Madrid and has been heard in many places of worship over the years, we are more likely to hear Rossini's 'Stabat Mater' in a concert hall than a cathedral in the 21st century for reasons that go beyond the scope of a review. Personally, I enjoyed listening to the music but even when following the text in translation did not feel engaged as a worshipper which most likely says more about me than the music. If you only know Rossini as a composer of opera his 'Stabat Mater' is certainly an ear-opener and while this listener enjoyed hearing it, he is more likely to be found listening to Handel's 'Messiah' or something by Bach over Easter.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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