Boccherini: Stabat mater, G532; String Quartet in G minor, Op. 24/6

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Ricercar
ALBUM TITLE: Boccherini
WORKS: Stabat mater, G532; String Quartet in G minor, Op. 24/6
PERFORMER: Sophie Karthäuser (soprano); Les Folies Françoises
CATALOGUE NO: RIC 244
The brief verses of the Stabat mater text, many just three lines, have lured composers into fragmented musical settings (for instance Alessandro Scarlatti, reviewed February 2006). Boccherini is more interventionist, welding up to three verses into larger-scale units. In one case, he creates a da capo aria, with new text for the repeat of the opening – an imaginative construction. Although he arranged a later version for three singers ‘to avoid monotony’, no such charge can be laid at the door of this excellent performance.

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A larghetto from a two-cello string quintet serves as introduction, apt in mood, key and scoring. The range of textures following is remarkable: Karthäuser joins strings as an equal to create a rich, dark sextet; later, her diamantine voice glistens in her top register, breath-taking in piano, thrilling in forte. Two fast movements frame an impassioned accompanied recitative asking ‘Who could not weep…?’ while a particular high spot is the aria ‘Virgo virginum…’ scored for solo voice and violin, rippling inner chords, and pizzicato first cello. Especially in the (bonus) string quartet, close recording, while taming unruly church reverberation and clarifying detail, creates moments of hardness – a small price to pay for such alluring music. George Pratt