Two entirely different settings of this famous prayer, one more obviously
operatic, the other more sparing and sacred in its spiritual content.
Boccherini's vision of the Stabat Mater is an altogether more gratifying
and theatrical one, in a sense it is quite reminiscent of Rossini's similar
setting almost a century later. The composer is obviously indebted to Pergolesi's
composition, that work was to haunt many composers when composing music for
the prayer. Almost forty-five minutes in length, Boccherini's Stabat Mater
ranks along with the select few and, on the evidence in this recording should
receive much more performances than it presently does. As with the handle
recording (reviewed here), Susan Gritton brings much beauty and fascination
to her vocal line especially in 'Virgo verginum praeclara', a study in grief.
King's studiously sustained accompaniment brings a certain fresh air to the
music, which can easily sound staid. However, the deep pathos of 'Quando
corpus morietur' shows Boccherini astonishingly ahead of his time, this could
even be taken as his best work for those who know only symphonies and quartets.
I also enjoyed Sarah Fox's wafer thin voice in 'Fac ut portem Christi mortem',
she is certainly another fast rising name
Robert King dwells at length on the adventurous follies of D'Astorga in his
excellent notes. Some of that fiery and libertine character is apparent in
this setting of the famous prayer with some astonishing harmonies and exciting
instrumentalisation. The tragic chorus that precedes the work is indeed wonderful
both for its rich melodic vein and also for its depiction of tragedy. D'Astorga
could be compared to Velasquez in his ability to paint dark scenes with a
masterly brush. I am not going to quibble with this performance, it is indeed
a fine one and owing to the dearth of Astorga recordings currently available,
I doubt if it will be surpassed, at least not for the near future. Choral
and orchestral playing are masterfully controlled whilst the few solo
contributions are summarily dispatched by the talented Gritton. Morales'
melancholic painting makes an ideal front cover whilst full texts and
translations are provided. Obviously, a self-recommending issue to be snapped