When Boccherini's six quintets for flute and string quartet were published in 1776, the composer described them as "opera piccolo" (little works) because of their generally brief character. But in these splendid performances by Italian Auser Musici, the flute quintets need no disclaimers, and they sound fully equal to the composer's string quintets. Flutist Carlo Ipata takes the lead, and his playing perfectly matches Boccherini's sweet-toned but technically challenging music.
The ensemble L`Archibudelli and the cellist Anner Bylsma, together with the wonderful soprano Roberta Invernizzi, have once again recorded the exceptionally well-rehearsed Mass by Luigi Boccherini in a fantastic recording. Despite minimal use without choir and winds, the listener is captivated by the drama of each movement. Rberta Invernizzi brings out in a clear and fine voice every single twist of this interesting work and the string ensemble shines with powerful, gripping sound and wonderful slow movements. The Stabat Mater is supplemented by the String Quintet op. 42.
Boccherini wrote very little vocal music; however he left two settings of the Stabat mater. It was first set in 1781 for solo soprano and strings and then in 1800 for two sopranos and tenor, obviously influenced by the hugely-popular Pergolesi Stabat mater of 1736. There are many similarities in the notation and harmony—even the same key of F minor is used. The writing is of extraordinary individuality and seems to come straight from the heart. This unjustly neglected piece is surely one of the most remarkable sacred compostions of the era.
Emanuele d'Astorga was one of the most colourful figures in early eighteenth-century music and his life has often been the subject of legend rather than fact (brief details of which can be discovered in Robert King's illuminating booklet notes). During his life, Astorga was best known for his well-written and tuneful chamber cantatas (of which more than 150 survive) and his opera Dafni (only Act 1 now survives). But by far his most enduring work has proved to be this setting of the Stabat mater, his only surviving sacred composition. Throughout it we hear Astorga's gift for writing warm melodies, typical of the Neapolitan style of the time, and how he captures the melancholy of this most desolate of sacred texts.
A consummate artist whose approach to the cello was directed toward breathing life into the music, Paul Tortelier earned the respect and affection of countless colleagues. An enduring friendship with Pablo Casals found him playing, in the words of a French critic, Apollo to Casals' Jupiter. Like Casals, Tortelier emphasized using but one finger at a time on the string to allow free vibration. Fantasy and emotional freedom marked his performances and attracted numerous young players.
Though born in Italy, Luigi Boccherini was based for most of his life in Madrid, where he played the cello and wrote more than a hundred string quintets. They’re perfectly formed from the simplest chords, and not without their touches of profundity. The cello sonatas sound at times too much like performers’ music. The explanation lies in changing styles of string technique and the rise of the piano, though Anner Bylsma’s playing gives them a new lease of life.– Nicholas Williams