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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quartet in C minor, G. 214, Op. 41/1 (1788) [17.46]
Stabat mater, G. 532 (based on 1781 original version) [40.06]
Francesca Boncompagni (soprano)
Ensemble Symposium: Igor Cantarelli (violin I), Gian Andrea Guerra (violin II), Simone Laghi (viola), Gregorio Buti (cello), Nicola Brovelli (cello II)
rec. 8-10 January 2016 Seminario Vescovile di Piacenza, Piacenza, Italy
Latin text provided: no English translation

This is a desirable new album on Brilliant Classics of two works showing different sides of the Lucca born composer Luigi Boccherini. The original version of the Stabat mater, G. 532 for soprano and strings and the String Quartet in C minor, G. 214.

One of the most prolific classical composers of his time Boccherini was a true cosmopolitan celebrated in many of Europe’s major cities. In his day Boccherini was principally known as a virtuoso cellist, although, he enjoyed a considerable reputation for his compositions, the vast majority of which were in the field of chamber music. Concentrating mainly on instrumental music Boccherini wrote relatively little vocal music. However, he did leave 2 settings of the Stabat mater the 13th century hymn to the suffering of Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ her son.

The Stabat mater probably completed in 1800/01 for two sopranos and tenor was published in Naples in 1801 followed by a French edition published in 1805. Recorded here is the first draft of the Stabat mater written some 20 years earlier in 1781 for solo soprano, strings and cello obbligato that the composer did not mention in his own catalogue. Ensemble Symposium is playing the edition based on the first critical edition of the 1781 version edited by Luca Lévi Sala. Boccherini has selected text from the Jacopone da Todi Sequentia that he has assembled into 11 sections. The score of the Stabat mater includes borrowings from several of his instrumental works and conversely motifs/melodies from the Stabat mater can be traced to a few of his other works including the String Quartet in C minor, G. 214 which is also contained on the album.

This original version of the Stabat mater with the single soloist and five strings emerges as a setting that feels fresh and profoundly intimate. Soprano Francesca Boncompagni excels, with intelligent singing producing a lovely purity and fluidity to her voice whilst communicating a sense of consolation and appropriate reverence. I especially admire Boncompagni’s excellent breath control in the long melodic lines of the Tui Nati vulneráti, the inspirational character of the Fac me plagis vulnerary and such captivating innocence and piety of the final section Quando corpus moriétur.

Using period instruments, Ensemble Symposium, in the String Quartet in C minor provides an engaging performance high on polish and long on assurance. The quartet plays with immaculate ensemble and the intonation from the gut strings sounds most appealing.

No problems whatsoever with the sound quality, recorded in the Seminario Vescovile di Piacenza, having a pleasing clarity and beautifully balanced too. In the booklet Luca Lévi Sala has written an interesting and informative essay. Also provided is the Latin text to the Stabat mater but disappointingly there is no English translation. On both the booklet cover and inside liner the stunning oil of The Resurrected Christ Appears to the Virgin (1629) by Italian Baroque painter Guercino adds to the desirability of this attractively performed and presented release.

Michael Cookson



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