Once the remit of boy choristers and early music specialists only, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater has evolved into a star vehicle – a marketable foray into the baroque for major labels. Emma Kirkby and James Bowman led the way (Decca) and more recently Philippe Jaroussky and Julia Lezhneva (Erato). Now it’s the turn of Sony’s new leading lady, Sonya Yoncheva, joined by French mezzo Karine Deshayes and period band Ensemble Amarillis.
Both singers began in this repertoire, but both have moved beyond it on the opera stage; Yoncheva recently debuted as Norma and Deshayes has sung Carmen. It shows. While each phrases sensitively, the idiom is now Pergolesi by way of Verdi, with plenty of colouring outside the vocal lines.
The effect is by no means unpleasant – old-fashioned, perhaps, but venison-rich and deliciously fleshy. If these anachronistic performances had been paired with a contemporary orchestra it might have worked. As it is, Yoncheva in particular seems to struggle to sing down to her period accompanists, and occasionally pitch wavers.
Ensemble Amarillis takes centre-stage for Mancini’s rather anonymous Sonata in G Minor for recorder (co-director Heloise Gaillard the elegant soloist) and a bittersweet Concerto Grosso by Durante. Neat performances, but an odd accompaniment to so consciously inauthentic a musical centrepiece.