Flavio Emilio Scogna

Luigi Boccherini: Stabat Mater

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The Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and strings of the gravely ill Giovanni Battista Pergolesi almost single-handedly revived interest in the sorrowful and rather heart-tugging medieval poem known by the first words of its first line, "Stabat mater dolorosa" (The grieving mother stood). Pergolesi's Stabat Mater was even the subject of a close and at times exact imitation by the composer Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti, and its influence shows up even in the present work by Luigi Boccherini, written in 1781. The Boccherini Stabat Mater exists in two versions, of which this one, for soprano and string quintet (two violins, viola, cello, and double bass), was the first. The later version adds alto and tenor parts. Despite the simplification (or amplification) of the vocal texture, the work bears the stamp of Pergolesi's. It is in the same key, F minor, and the somber yet lyrical mood is a near match for that of the earlier work. There are more local resemblances, as well, perhaps intended as tributes: compare the settings of the stanza beginning with "Eja mater" in the two works. The work seems imbued with real religious feeling on the part of the prolific Boccherini, and that feeling comes through even in spite of various problems with this recording. One is that a small string orchestra is used. The Orchestra da camara Benedetto Marcello under Flavio Emilio Scogna is smooth and has the right hushed expressivity, but in recording a virtually unknown work it is desirable to use the original instrumentation -- in this case a string quintet. No good reason is offered or apparent for why the performers here did not do so. The rather thin soprano of Barbara Vignudelli might also have more fully displayed its best feature, its intimacy, in a smaller setting; here it sometimes doesn't seem to match the orchestra, in pitch or attitude. The English translation of the booklet notes is barely legible as such. In spite of these reservations, Boccherini's vocal music is almost unknown, and any recording of it is welcome.

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