This is what successful ecumenism can accomplish: without Johann Adam Hiller’s adaptation Pergolesi’s Stabat mater probably never would have attained the popularity it enjoys today. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock’s nuanced poetic treatment of this subject in German contributed significantly to the understanding of this hymn in Catholic Church Latin by Lutheran Christians in the motherland of the Reformation. Moreover, the fact that Hiller rescued from oblivion what today is a universally recognized masterpiece can be experienced in its full splendor on this latest recording by the Hymnus Choirboys of Stuttgart.
Hiller was very careful when it came to intervening in Pergolesi’s composition. Wind instruments are added, harmonies are reinforced here and there, and a few solo parts are also scored for male voices. The additional color very much corresponded to the taste of the times. The contrapuntal and chromatic despair in Pergolesi’s original yields to a more conciliatory mood – which was just right for the Enlightenment public.
Hiller’s own compositions are mostly forgotten today – entirely unjustly so, as the impressive Stuttgart interpretation of his Psalm 100 proves. The festive opening “Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt” immediately captures the listener’s attention: here a highly independent voice is speaking, and in the very flattering solo parts the singers are given the opportunity to show their virtuosic side. The motet “Lass sich freuen alle“ also represents the highest quality, and with their youthful freshness the Stuttgart choirboys turn it into a festival of a cappella artistry.
Rainer Johannes Homburg and his Hymnus Choirboys continue a tradition represented by Hiller in his capacity as the Thomaskantor in Leipzig – which makes this new recording a sound document with a special appeal. The luxurious MDG sound also plays its role here; in high-resolution SACD technology it transports the music into the living room with vivid naturalness – a fitting tribute reviving a great model.