René Jacobs, Sophie Karthäuser, Christophe Dumaux – Pergolesi – Septem verba a Christo (2013)

Composer: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

Composition: Septem Verba a Christo

Performers: René Jacobs, Sophie Karthäuser, Christophe Dumaux

Released: Harmonia Mundi / 2013

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Fine performance from conductor René Jacobs, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and an impressive quartet of soloists, include soprano Sophie Karthauser, counter-tenor Christophe Dumaux, tenor Julian Behr and bass-baritone Konstantin Wolff. This Septem verba a Christo in cruce moriente proloata (The Seven Words of the Dying Christ on the Cross) was rediscovered nearly a century ago, and scholars down through the years have reached differing conclusions as to whether or not the work was really by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, as one manuscript claimed. More and more copies surfaced, and finally the discovery by musicologist Reinhard Fehling of a new set of parts at an Austrian monastery in 2009 showed that the work was at the very least popular over a good part of Europe, and the forces represented here gave the work its modern-day premiere performance and first recording. You can see why some were skeptical of Pergolesi’s authorship, for it doesn’t sound much like his more famous Stabat Mater or like anything by anybody else, either. The closest parallel would be Bach’s so-called dialogue cantatas, with soloists representing Christ and the soul. The work is Bachian in another way, too, with a set of hidden symmetries and apparent meanings outlined in the album notes. It consists of seven aria pairs, with a few of the arias prefaced by accompanied recitatives. Each of the pairs represents one of the seven last words of Christ on the cross, with Christ (a bass in all cases except for the second “word,” where he is a tenor) setting out the basic meaning and the Soul (a soprano, alto, or tenor) providing a kind of emotional reaction that is closely related, both musically and conceptually, to Christ’s aria. It’s thus a tightly constructed, rather intellectual piece, atypical of Pergolesi. The orchestral writing, featuring horns, trumpet, harp, and lute, is also unlike anything else in Pergolesi’s oeuvre. But the work is successful on its own terms, and it receives a fine performance here from conductor René Jacobs, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and an impressive quartet of soloists. This odd piece isn’t going to displace the Stabat Mater from the top rank of Pergolesi’s work, but it adds substantially to the picture of his genius.


Verbum I: Pater, dimitte illis: non enim sciunt qui faciunt (Luke 23:34)
01. Christus (bass) Recitativo: Huc, o dilecti filii
02. Aria: En doceo diligere
03. Anima (alto) Aria: Quod iubes, magne Domine
Verbum II: Amen dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in Paradiso (Luke 25:43)
04. Christus (tenor) Recitativo: Venite, currite
05. Aria: Latronem hunc aspicite
06. Anima (soprano) Aria: Ah! peccatoris supplicis
Verbum III: Mulier ecce filius tuus (John 19:26)
07. Christus (bass) Recitativo: Quo me, amor?
08. Aria: Dilecta Genitrix
09. Anima (soprano) Recitativo: Servator optime
10. Aria: Quod iubes, magne Domine
Verbum IV: Deus meus, deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me? (Mark 15:34)
11. Christus (bass) Aria: Huc oculos
12. Anima (alto) Aria: Afflicte, derelicte
Verbum V: Sitio (John 19:28)
13. Christus (bass) Aria: O vos omnes, qui transitis
14. Anima (tenor) Aria: Non nectar, non vinum, non undas
Verbum VI: Consummatum est (John 19:29)
15. Christus (bass) Aria: Huc advolate mortales
16. Anima (soprano) Aria: Sic consummasti omnia
Verbum VII: Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum (Luke 23:44-46)
17. Christus (bass) Recitativo: Quotquot coram cruce statis
18. Aria: In tuum, Pater, gremium
19. Anima (tenor) Aria: Quid ultra peto vivere


Sophie Karthäuser, soprano
Christophe Dumaux, countertenor
Julien Behr, tenor
Konstantin Wolff, bass
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
René Jacobs, conductor

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