Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821–1889)
Messa da Requiem (ed. Thomas Martin, Josep Prats and Peter Broadbent) (1877)
Marta Mathéu (soprano); Gemma Coma-Alabert (mezzo); Agustín Prunell-Friend (tenor); Enric Martínez-Castignani (baritone)
Joyful Company of Singers/Peter Broadbent
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Martin
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, UK, 15-16 February 2012. DDD
Sung texts and translations are included in the booklet and can also be accessed at
NAXOS 8.572994 [65:25]
For the most part we know of Bottesini as a double bass virtuoso. He stands in the shadow of the nineteenth century great executants rather than as a composer of works of this scale.
Bottesini was generous man who, while he earned a fortune from his energetic world tours, died in penury with his funeral expenses met by the Parma authorities. He wrote string quartets and quintets, some seventy salon songs and orchestral pieces as well as operas such as Ero e Leandro and Alì Babà.
The Requiem was written in early 1877 after the death of Bottesini’s brother Luigi. A première took place in the Capuchin chapel in Cairo where Bottesini was conductor of the city’s Italian opera company. The first complete performance was in Turin’s Teatro Regio on 24 March 1880. It seems to have suffered in the inevitable comparison with Verdi’s Requiem of three years earlier and duly sank from sight. It was only revived in 1979-80 with performances in Crema and in Venice.
This work, in fourteen sections, deserves better as this lovingly performed reading goes to show. The music is lively and often inspired. It is tuneful, with some bel canto moments as in the Quid sum miser and the plangently cooling Lacrymosa. That aspect is offset by the influence of Mendelssohn and Schumann. The Dies Irae and the final Dies illa are gems of breathlessly feathery enthusiasm; not to be missed. There are even some grandly Beethovenian moments as in Quaerens me. The brash Sanctus has an Aida-like marching regality. The polished and serenely Mozartean Agnus Dei paves the way for the fugal terracing of the Requiem Aeternam and a wonderfully ethereal Libera me.
The booklet notes are by Gaspare Nello Vetro with the sung words printed in full alongside translations into English.
Michael Ponder and Eleanor Walton bring sure-footed judgement to the recorded sound which has plenty of impact and flatters this very worthwhile work.
If you enjoy the grand requiems of the nineteenth century you must not overlook this. A bit of a discovery.

Rob Barnett
A bit of a discovery.

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