Rossini is still best known for his operatic comedies, but it’s the serious, dramatic side of his personality that shines through his weightiest sacred work. Pappano and his Roman forces – the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – have already given us the definitive modern Verdi Requiem, and this Stabat Mater makes a worthy follow-up.
Its most obvious advantage is the Italianate attack of orchestra and chorus, clearly inspired by the conductor’s quasi-operatic view of the score. Rossini’s clear-cut tunes and strong rhythms, lighting up each of the 10 movements, come across with appealing directness, and it would be hard to better this quartet of soloists.
John Brownlee excels in the jaunty “Cujus animam”, while the “Quis est homo” finds Anna Netrebko and Joyce DiDonato duetting rapturously. The bass, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, is no less impressive. What ultimately defines the performance is its polish and stylishness, giving the Stabat Mater a stature it has seldom, if ever, achieved on record.