Dvořák: Stabat Mater, Op 58

Reviewed on Wed 19 Jul, 2017

Jiří Bělohlávek’s final recording is, poignantly enough, of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater. Framed by the rich, deep acoustic of the Dvořák Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum, it proves a moving leave taking.

Jiří Bělohlávek’s death in May at the age of 71 brought to an end a career dedicated to the championing of Czech music. The inheritor of the mantle shared by Václavs Talich and Neumann, Bělohlávek’s final recording is, poignantly enough, of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater. Framed by the rich, deep acoustic of the Dvořák Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum, it proves a moving leave taking. Immediately apparent is the resonant and characterful choral sound. Less rounded than Bělohlávek’s previous recording, also with the Prague Philharmonic Choir and Czech Philharmonic, for Chandos in 1991, it has greater dramatic bite, a more supple and variegated emotional force. Strong contributions from all four soloists – Eri Nakamura and Michael Spyres especially so in their sublime duet – are framed by ardent orchestral playing, luminous in its warmth, rousing in its sense of sanctity. Above all, it is Bělohlávek’s pacing and shaping that hits home here in a fine and vivid valedictory performance.
–Michael Quinn