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CD Review

Antonín Dvořák

Stabat Mater

Marina Zvetkova, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Johan Botha, tenor
Roberto Scandiuzzi, bass
Dresden State Orchestra and Saxon State Opera Chorus/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Deutsche Grammophon 471033 2CDs
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This CD, recorded live in April, 2000, at the Dresden State Opera, turned out to be a memorial to its conductor, the late and brilliant Giuseppe Sinopoli, who died on April 20, 2001, while leading a performance of Aïda at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He was only fifty-four and his career, replete with triumphs the world over, was still clearly on the rise. What many don't know about the man was that he was also a talented composer, a doctor (with a degree in surgery) and an amateur archaeologist. This CD then, will have special significance for his many admirers since it is among his last recordings.

The larger issue here, of course, is whether this Dvořák/Stabat Mater stacks up well against the plethora of others in the catalog. Many potential buyers will hesitate to purchase this one because of the unfamiliar singers listed in the headnote. All, however, prove compelling, especially the tenor, Johan Botha, and soprano, Marina Zvetkova. But ultimately this is the conductor's show and Sinopoli delivers a riveting account of Dvořák's masterwork.

Perhaps the most moving section here is the opening Stabat Mater dolorosa. Certainly, it contains Dvořák's best music and Sinopoli delivers it with precision and feeling, seemingly incompatible qualities. The rest of the score comes across convincingly, with a fine sense for the work's tragic elements. In the end, one must rank this performance with the efforts of the Czech conductors Talich, Kubelík and Belohlávik. (The latter's second effort on Chandos is probably his better rendition.) The Dresden State Orchestra turns in their usual fine playing here and the Saxon State Opera Chorus sings splendidly, as well. DG's sonics are clear, despite a tad too much reverberation. This CD must draw an enthusiastic recommendation not only because of its superior performance, but because it represents one of Sinopoli's greatest and, alas, final recordings.

Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings