Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Coro e Orchestra Ghislieri, Giulio Prandi
Marlis Petersen, Marta Fumagalli
Arcana A444, 71’18
Messa in Re maggiore; Mottetto: “Dignas laudes resonemus”
Whether you assume that Pergolesi only wrote one work or are an aficionado, this CD of two previously unrecorded pieces (the Messa in Re maggiore and the operatic “Dignas laudes resonemus”) is an important one. The editions used are the outcome of recent musicological research by the Centro Studi Pergolesi in Milan. The Messa in Re maggiore is performed in the second of two surviving versions, dating from 1733/4, incidentally, the same year as the first version of Bach’s B minor Mass. It is in the two-movement Neapolitan form of Kyrie and Gloria. It is a joyful work, with an almost skittish concluding Amen. Pergolesi’s use of vocal and orchestral colour and texture can range from the utmost delicacy to thundering drama, as exemplified in the dramatic opening of the Messa in Re maggiore. The dark opening to the Qui tollis is followed by a subdued section that seems to foreshadow the Sturm und drang of the later Hadyn generation. These two works explore Pergolesi’ theatrical style of writing, in the Neapolitan tradition.
The Mottetto: “Dignas laudes resonemus” is a grand affair, scored for double five-part choir and a double string orchestra with oboes, horns and trumpets. As with the Messa, changes of mood and texture are used to great effect, creating a dramatic telling of the tribulations of Mary, with a dialogue between her and Jesus as the penultimate movement. The format is operatic, with recitatives and arias sandwiched between large-scale choruses. It has reconstructed from a complex series of sources and versions.
The Ghislieri Choir & Orchestra is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary,. Curiously, the CD notes give no information about them or the conductor, although a full page is devoted to the chap who took the cover photograph. The principal soloists are Marlis Petersen soprano, and Marta Fumagalli, mezzo, but several soloists are also drawn from the 23-strong choir. The singing and orchestral playing are excellent, although there is occasionally a little too much operatic vibrato from the two principal soloists. It is good to hear the organ making itself felt in the Messa. The CD notes can be found here.
This is a welcome addition to the Pergolesi recording library, exploring a rather different style and mood to the well-known Salve Regina.