First published in the Guardian on 30 March, 2017
Pergolesi/Bach: Stabat Mater/Cantatas
La Nuova Musica/Bates/Crowe/Mead (Harmonia Mundi)
I was mainly excited about this recording because it features two of my favourite baroque voices of the moment — countertenor Tim Mead and soprano Lucy Crowe — but it turns out the instrumental playing is just as enticing. La Nuova Musica under David Bates sound lush and languid in two of Bach’s alto cantatas (BWV 54 & 170). They let phrases sigh and breathe and supply a decent amount of bass under properly expressive melodic lines. In Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater the ensemble sounds sparser but not astringent, and I love the space and tenderness Bates allows in the aria Fac, ut portem Christi mortem. And the singing? Crowe and Mead are both in sumptuous voice, both fiery in the most dramatic moments of the Stabat Mater, but her nimble grace and charisma is occasionally weighed down by his more flannely delivery. He sounds beautiful in the cantatas, though, eking out all the most resonant corners.