Judith Malafronte review of the CD Stabat Mater – sacred music of the italian Eighteenth century.
“Contralto Sara Mingardo is an arresting and stylish singer who combines technical security with a seemingly effortless delivery; her artistry and vocal allure never fail to please. Vivaldi’s multi-movement Nisi Dominus, for solo alto with strings in a variety of demanding musical styles, is a perfect vehicle to showcase Mingardo’s tasteful and committed singing. Written for the Ospedale della Pietà—the orphanage, convent and music conservatory where Vivaldi worked from 1703 to 1720—the piece would have been sung by a highly accomplished young girl hidden behind a screen. Musical and dramatic effects include masterful diminuendos on long notes, mesmerizingly even and legato phrases, echo effects and other contrasts of dynamics, feats of agility, leaps and vigorous articulation. All are handled by Mingardo with color and control of vibrato, adding to the astounding effect.
For Pergolesi’s ever-popular Stabat Mater, Mingardo is joined by soprano Silvia Frigato, a singer with similar vocal profile and a dark, compact sound. From the first phrase, conductor Federico Ferri draws warm sound from the strings of the Accademia degli Astrusi, and the singers match the drawn-out dissonances with rich, intense phrasing. Both singers also display effective trills—Frigato, in the tormented “Per transiret gladius”; and Mingardo, in “Quae moerebat et dolebat”—where other singers usually offer approximations. Frigato portrays the spirit draining away in the phrase “Dum emiset spiritus” with effectively creepy tone, and Mingardo’s cadenza down to low D highlights the dramatic writing of “Fac ut portet.”
Francesco Lora’s excellent booklet essay sheds light on the composition of Pergolesi’s cantata, as well as the many derivatives and transcriptions, including those by Bach, Salieri and Paisiello. Johann Adam Hiller even turned the duet into a vocal quartet with big-band accompaniment.”