Dvořák: Stabat Mater, Op 58

Reviewed on Tue 26 Jan, 2016

Mariss Jansons connects well with the work’s harmonic warmth, luminous scoring and sincere though never overstated devotional spirit. I liked his flowing approach to ‘Tui nati vulnerati’ and the warmth of the string choirs at the start of ‘Virgo virginum praeclara’ (a characteristic blend of high and low sonorities).

One of the principal joys of Dvořák's maturity was his first concert in England (March 1884), where, at the Royal Albert Hall, this “Lion of the season’s music” (as he was called) conducted his Stabat Mater to great acclaim. Mariss Jansons connects well with the work’s harmonic warmth, luminous scoring and sincere though never overstated devotional spirit. The very opening more approximates Verdi’s ‘Kyrie’ (the Requiem) than on any recording I know of, though the solemn tread of ‘Eja, mater, fons amoris’ wears a more austere profile on Václav Smetáček's classic 1961 recording from Prague (Supraphon). Bass Liang Li declaims masterfully in ‘Fac, ut ardeat cor meum’, though, again, Smetáček has the edge with the magnificent Kim Borg. In fact, his is the best-sung version of all. I liked Jansons’s flowing approach to ‘Tui nati vulnerati’ (where Smetáček is a mite stolid) and the warmth of the string choirs at the start of ‘Virgo virginum praeclara’ (a characteristic blend of high and low sonorities). Jiři Bělohávek’s later Supraphon recording is a marginally more transparent production, but I’d say that for a discerning collector the combination of Smetáček’s intensity and Jansons’s poetic approach more or less covers the full scope of this wonderful work.
–Rob Cowan