Armonie dello Spirito
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Adagio and Fugue
in C minor K546 (1788) [7:21]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Stabat Mater
G532 (First version - 1781) [38:33]
Gemma Bertagnolli (soprano): Ensemble Aurora (Enrico Gatti and Rossela Croce (violins), Sebastiano Airoldi (viola), Gaetano Nasillo and Luca Peverini (cellos))
rec. Basilica della Santa Casa, Loreto, 7 April 2011; Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence, 9 April 2011
Video director: Tiziano Mancini
Region Code: 0
PCM Stereo DD5.1
no text, translation or subtitles included
Given the understandable popularity of Pergolesi’s setting of the Stabat Mater it is surprising that Boccherini’s take is encountered much less frequently. Clearly Boccherini was working in a tradition that stemmed largely from that earlier setting, but he develops its approach even further. The result is a work of extraordinary variety and concentration. This is especially the case in the initial version of the work which is recorded here. The use of a single female voice - Pergolesi used two - together with a string quintet with two cellos makes for a texture which can be sensuous, dramatic or lyrical by turns, but never, in my experience, outstays its welcome. A later version adds two other soloists but to some degree dissipates this effect.
The present recording is an amalgam of two public concerts. This enables greater visual contrast in the background to the performers and even occasionally permits both occasions to be seen together on opposite sides of the screen. The use of two venues should potentially allow the director a greater choice of architectural details on which to focus. This allows the eye some relief from looking at the performers and provides food for thought. However this potential advantage is much reduced by a regrettable tendency for the director to allow the camera to wander apparently aimlessly around these details, at times inducing vertigo and adding nothing to the viewer’s understanding of the work. It would surely have been easy to have found carvings, windows or other representations of the crucifixion to match or comment upon each section of the work appropriately; where this does happen it seems to be more by accident than on purpose. This would have added to the very striking appearance of the performers themselves, especially Gemma Bertagnolli, to produce a visually impressive result instead of the somewhat lazily haphazard effect actually achieved.
The musical performance is however admirable. Gemma Bertagnolli sings with controlled fervour, meeting all the contrasting challenges of the music, and Ensemble Aurora, using historic instruments, match her approach. Mozart’s wonderful Adagio and Fugue was originally conceived simply as a fugue for two pianos (K426) in 1783 but was recast in 1788 for string orchestra. It is played here as a quartet which does mean the loss of the few occasions when the double bass has an independent line but these are few and little harm is done. It is a tremendous piece, one of Mozart’s greatest works, and it is good to hear such a committed performance, albeit one where the acoustic hides some important detail.
There is much that is worthwhile on this disc. It would be regrettable if the short length (it is at least priced appropriately), poor video direction and lack of text, subtitles or any information on the works or the performers were to put some potential purchasers off. All the more so given the very high quality of the music and performances.  

John Sheppard
Much that is worthwhile here … very high quality music and performances.