Boccherini’s Stabat Mater, a Mozart string quartet and Mendelssohn’s Salve Regina

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini,Mendelssohn,Mozart
LABELS: Carus
ALBUM TITLE: Boccherini
WORKS: Boccherini: Stabat Mater; Mozart: String Quartet No. 16 in E flat, K428; Mendelssohn: Salva Regina
PERFORMER: Dorothee Mields (soprano); Salagon Quartett; Miriam Shalinsky (double bass)
CATALOGUE NO: 83.470

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Boccherini’s Stabat Mater, a Mozart string quartet and Mendelssohn’s Salve Regina might seem odd bedfellows. Brought together in this profound performance, however, they prove mutually illuminating. The starting point of the programme is really Pergolesi. His Stabat Mater, written as he lay dying at age 26, became an imaginative touchstone for the next generation of composers. Boccherini quotes the work, and the poignancy of Mozart’s and Mendelssohn’s music is a legacy that Pergolesi pioneered.

Dorothee Mields reveals herself here as an artist of the first order, broadening out from the Baroque repertory for which she is best known. Her instrument is gorgeous: lustrous, precise, and feather-light. Her musicianship is fierce as she digs into the expression of each word, brings ceaseless variety to soft dynamics and gives every phrase grace. She is accompanied by a string quintet in both Boccherini’s and Mendelssohn’s works. The Salagon Quartet, joined by Miriam Shalinsky on double bass, brings a deeply interiorised reading that complements Mields’s execution. The sweetness of blend among the musicians – especially in Mendelssohn’s Salve Regina, which is a work overlaid in older recordings with heavy soprano timbres – makes for benchmark performances.

The melancholy gets a bit much in Mozart’s quartet. Whereas the Andante movement gains depth from this treatment, levity is muted in all three Allegro movements. Given that the work’s dedicatee is Haydn, surely at least the minuet invites some carefree bounce?

Here as elsewhere, however, the artists make this music say something entirely new. By any measure, that’s great music-making.

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Berta Joncus