Spec­trum of au­then­tic­ity

Pasatiempo - - PASA REVIEWS - — James M. Keller

Ev­ery year, the Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Baroque En­sem­ble per­forms mu­sic from the 17th and 18th cen­turies at Loretto Chapel in the run up to Easter. This in­stall­ment was on the short side but proved fully nour­ish­ing nonethe­less. It be­gan with a win­ning per­for­mance of a G-ma­jor Flute Con­certo of un­known Ital­ian parent­age but, from the sound of it, sired in the 1730s. At some point, it was as­cribed to Gio­vanni Bat­tista Per­golesi, who spent the most no­table years of his very short ca­reer at­tached to mu­si­cal es­tab­lish­ments in Naples. Af­ter his death at the age of 26, his bi­og­ra­phy be­came highly ro­man­ti­cized, and the at­ten­dant fame (or no­to­ri­ety) made him a mag­net for mis­at­tri­bu­tion of works by more ob­scure com­posers. Of the 148 com­po­si­tions noted in the “com­plete edi­tion of Per­golesi’s works” pub­lished from 1939 to 1942, only 30 are con­sid­ered gen­uine to­day. He wrote al­most noth­ing apart from vo­cal mu­sic. The cur­rent edi­tion of The New Grove Dic­tio­nary of Mu­sic and Mu­si­cians ad­mits only five in­stru­men­tal com­po­si­tions as au­then­tic and con­signs 57 other in­stru­men­tal pieces cir­cu­lated un­der his name to the pro­gres­sively more leery cat­e­gories of “doubt­ful,” “ex­tremely doubt­ful,” and “spu­ri­ous.” This flute con­certo falls into the mid­dle clas­si­fi­ca­tion of un­like­li­hood — “ex­tremely doubt­ful” — but that in no way lessens its charm, es­pe­cially when in­ter­preted as adeptly as Carol Red­man did here. Her Baroque flute blended warmly into the sup­port­ing en­sem­ble of strings plus or­gan con­tinuo. She en­dowed the outer move­ments with ami­able spright­li­ness (her gusto even de­flect­ing at­ten­tion from some lapses in the strings in the fi­nale), and she im­bued the rather Vi­val­dian mid­dle move­ment with an

af­fet­tu­oso char­ac­ter em­blem­atic of the fi­nal years of the Baroque. Henry Pur­cell’s Pa­van and Cha­cony in G mi­nor is per­haps the ear­li­est en­sem­ble work by that sem­i­nal English com­poser, prob­a­bly writ­ten in 1678, just af­ter he was ap­pointed com­poser for the royal vi­o­lin en­sem­ble. Vi­o­lin­ists Stephen Red­field and Karen Clarke and vi­o­list Gail Robert­son in­ter­twined in pun­gent mourn­ful­ness dur­ing the pa­van and brought con­sid­er­able range of per­son­al­ity to the vari­a­tions traced above the re­peated (and some­times elon­gated) bass pat­tern.

Cer­ti­fi­able Per­golesi oc­cu­pied the en­tire sec­ond half of the con­cert: his well-known Sta­bat Mater for two solo voices, strings, and con­tinuo, one of the last pieces he com­pleted, in the early months of 1736, when he was dy­ing of (one early bi­og­ra­pher said) “a se­vere attack of pleurisy that baf­fled the ef­forts of all the med­i­cal men to save him.” This agree­able work com­prises 12 short move­ments. Some in­cor­po­rate de­pic­tive tone paint­ing, such as the “ham­mer­ing” mo­tif of the aria “Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,” which has to do with bear­ing Christ’s wounds. More of­ten, how­ever, Per­golesi’s set­ting of this long poem about the sor­row­ful mother weep­ing be­fore the cross ad­heres to a gen­er­al­ized but pleas­ant op­er­atic style of the type the ra­dio an­nouncer DeKoven used to de­scribe ec­stat­i­cally as “baro­coco.” So­prano Kathryn Mueller and mezzo-so­prano Deb­o­rah Do­man­ski both proved well suited to the style, though in dif­fer­ent ways. Mueller, clear of tim­bre and of­ten es­chew­ing vi­brato, con­veyed pu­rity and in­no­cence; she proved es­pe­cially ef­fect­ing in her aria “Vidit suum.” Do­man­ski pos­sesses a richer in­stru­ment but, like Mueller, ne­go­ti­ated the work’s col­oratura de­mands with a real spring in her step, most charm­ingly in the aria “Quae mo­ere­bat,” the mu­sic of which seems to have noth­ing to do with the grim sub­ject.

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