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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1747-1805)
Cello Concerto No. 6 in D Major G. 479 [18:00]
Symphony No. 6 in D minor Op. 12 No. 4 G506 'La Casa del diavolo' [18:37]
Cello Concerto No. 9 in B flat major G. 482 [17:03]
String Quintet Op. 30 No. 6 in C major G. 324 'La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid [13:47]
Stabat Mater (1st version, 1781, for soprano & string orchestra) G. 532 [38:44]
Cello Sonata in C minor G. 2 [11:08]
Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Pulcinella Orchestra/Ophélie Gaillard (cello)
rec. 2018, Little Tribeca, Paris
APARTÉ AP194 [67:37 + 50:02]

Boccherini’s music gets something of a bad press. Some disparagingly describe him as little more than “Haydn’s wife”. He did import all of Haydn’s new music to Spain where he was employed by the royal court. Even so, he can be seen as almost as important as Haydn to the development of the symphony and the string quartet.

I know all of Boccherini’s music recorded here. There is a famous recording by Jacqueline du Pré of the Cello Concerto No. 9, which I think has stayed in the catalogues in one guise or another since it was recorded in 1967. There also is Johannes Goritzki’s very fine recording of the Cello Concerto No. 6 (CPO 777 113-2), and the complete cello concertos played by Enrico Bronzi (Brilliant Classics 92618). This recording boasts Ophélie Gaillard directing the Pulcinella Orchestra from her cellist’s chair, and she makes a fine fist of it. While less dramatically compelling than du Pré, she is still engaging, particularly in the Allegro third movement of Concerto No. 6.

Johannes Goritzki also directed Boccherini’s 28 symphonies (CPO 999 401-2); the Symphony No. 6 included here appears as well on a stand-alone disc (CPO 999 173-2). I like this new recording. Gaillard’s choice of tempi works really well. She makes more of the central slow movement. She takes nearly twice as long as Goritzki – she includes all repeats – but it never feels slow. The sound of the ensemble makes this recording stand out. In particular, Francesco Corti’s piano makes a special contribution in support of the orchestra.

The second disc contains the magnificent (and much recorded) Stabat Mater for solo soprano and orchestra, and cello sonata No. 2. Sandrine Piau gives a good performance. Her voice is clear and crisp in the opening “Stabat mater dolorosa”, even if it lacks emotion a little. I tend to prefer Agnès Mellon with Ensemble 415 and Chiara Banchini (Harmonia Mundi HMX 2901933/94); Mellon’s lovely rounded tone and more ardent use of the raw emotion of the text wins the day. In the Cello Sonata No. 2, Ophélie Gaillard is considerably faster than Richard Lester (Hyperion CDH55219) and Luigi Puxeddu (the complete sonatas on Brilliant Classics 93784). The extra pace adds a little excitement, so Gaillard offers a thrilling alternative.

This is a very good collection of Boccherini’s music, a fine introduction for anyone coming to this music fresh. Despite Sandrine Piau’s slight lack of emotion and colour, I would still recommend it – for the playing of the Pulcinella Orchestra and Ophélie Gaillard. The recorded sound is excellent and detailed, whilst the booklet notes offer a good background and a detailed descriptions of the music.

Stuart Sillitoe

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