International Convention Center ( ICC ) in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: MICHAEL JACOBSON / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Rossini: Stabat Mater
he name Rossini usually conjures up opera in the minds of music afficionadoes. What normally does not come to mind is sacred or liturgical music. Nevertheless, he composed Stabat Mater, a piece of church music. One owes gratitude to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Gianandrea Noseda for reviving this seldom performed work.
Rossini obviously did not intend to write a sacred or liturgical work, appropriately solemn and formal. On the contrary, he focused on the human tragedy of a grieving mother doomed to witness her son’s cruel execution. No wonder Rossini expressed this situation and feeling in a moving operatic style – dramatic, melodious and emotional, foreshadowing music’s later Romantic period. Therefore one could justifiably call this work a church opera, if such a thing existed.
Piero Pretti’s radiant tenor began the work with a gloriously expressive aria, while Erika Grimaldi’s clear, pure soprano soared over choir and orchestra with intense expression. Daniela Bacellona’s warm mezzo-soprano persuasively conveyed the Mother’s tortured feelings. Nicola Ulliveri’s dark-timbred bass contributed dramatic expression.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir, excellently consolidated, and with abundant minute tone colors, from an almost inaudible pianissimo to a shattering fortissimo, forcefully conveyed the hopeless tragedy.
At the end, Rossini circumspectly leads us back to the church with a polyphonic fugato by an enthusiastic choir and orchestra.
It was an exciting and moving performance of Rossini’s masterpiece.
Rossini’s Stabat Mater is weighty and also long enough to provide a full-length concert program.
A curtain raiser, such as Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, was therefore superfluous and served only to make an already sufficiently long concert even longer. Moreover, the combination of Tchaikovsky’s concerto with Rossini’s work displayed poor musical taste, comparable to serving steak with raspberry juice. Violinist Michael Barenboim, though, demonstrated remarkable virtuosity, and enchanting sensitivity in the work’s lyrical passages
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