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Boccherini: Stabat Mater / Cohën-akenine, Karthaüser, Les Folies Françoises

Release Date: 02/14/2006 
Label:  Ricercar   Catalog #: 244   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Luigi Boccherini
Performer:  Patrick Cohën-AkenineLeonor de RecondoMichel RenardFrançois Poly,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Folies Françoises
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BOCCHERINI Stabat Mater, G 532. String Quartet in g, op. 24/6, G1 94 ? Patrick Cohën-Akenine (vn), dir; Sophie Karthäuser (sop); Les Folies Françoises (period instruments) ? RICERCAR RIC 244 (59:03 & , no translation)

As is well known to Boccherini enthusiasts, his setting of the Stabat Mater Read more exists in two versions. The first, scored for soprano soloist and a string quintet including the composer?s favorite combination of two cellos, dates from 1781, having been written at the request of his employer, the exiled Infante Don Luis. Twenty years later, Boccherini rescored the work, adding parts for a second soprano, and tenor, at the same time expanding the instrumental forces to orchestral size. It was this version that Boccherini published in 1801, explaining that he had expanded the work to avoid the monotony of a single voice and excessive fatigue to the singer over a lengthy period of time (the work lasts just over 40 minutes). Boccherini added that he had not changed the work ?in any way,? but, as I suggested to Robert King when discussing his marvelous recording of the published version ( Fanfare 23:3), the essential character of the work was altered, in fact altered to a degree where it may be considered essentially a different piece.

One of the defining characteristics of the original 1781 version was the care with which Boccherini coalesced voice and string quintet, forming a sextet in which the voice is an integral part of the ensemble. It was the success in achieving this blend that was one of the great strengths of the now-classic Harmonia Mundi version with Agnès Mellon and Ensemble 415, a performance of fragile beauty that has well stood the test of time. This new Ricercar aims at something a little less inward, a little more strongly projected, with sections like ?Cujus animam? and ?Fac me plagis? invested with greater passion and urgency. The whole work is quite gloriously sung by Sophie Karthäuser, a young Belgian soprano currently making quite a name for herself in Europe. If this is a fair sample of her work, that is hardly surprising; Karthäuser is the possessor of a voice of exceptional tonal purity and freshness, a voice moreover used with great intelligence and sensitivity. One need go no further than the opening lines, beautifully shaped and inflected with a perfectly turned ornament, to know that something very special is happening. At ?O quam tristis,? the voice blossoms into a cry of sympathetic pain for the anguished Virgin, while the words ?Morientem desolatum? (?in death forsaken?) are delivered with somberly impressive chest notes. In ?Eja Mater,? the voice floats the sustained lines to an ineffable effect compounded by the beauty of muted violins and some gorgeous playing from the cellos. The melismas in ?Fac, ut portem? are perfectly executed, while Karthäuser proves on several occasions that she is the possessor of a genuine trill. It would be possible to point to any number of further pleasures. But it is more important at this stage to urge all who respond to beautiful singing to hear this sublime performance for themselves. And I must not let my enthusiasm for Karthäuser to run so far as to forget to pay the highest tribute to Les Folies Françoises, too. This is the second disc of theirs I?ve reviewed in succession (the other is the Leclair reviewed elsewhere), and it confirms the ensemble as being among the very best of its kind.

Les Folies earn further accolades with their performance of not only the G-Minor String Quartet from op. 24, but also the Larghetto of the Quintet in F-Minor, op. 11/4, employed as an ideal preface to the Stabat Mater , with which it shares the same key. This follows the line of Boccherini?s suggestion for the orchestral version, which he introduced with the opening movement in the Symphony in F, op. 35/4. As befits its mode, the three-movement G-Minor Quartet (1777) opens with a dark, restless Allegro in which abrupt dynamic contrasts, the harmonic twists and turns, and slithering scalar descents all speak of lurking passions intensified by increasingly impassioned utterances in the second half of the movement. The central Soave opens with a flirtation with the major/minor ambiguity much loved by the composer, the whole movement in turn bathed in that glow of gentle melancholy unique to Boccherini. The terse concluding Minuetto has an exceptionally florid part for the first violin (superbly played by Cohën-Akenine), but a rather conventional trio section. The playing throughout is of such quality as to make one hope Les Folies might turn their attention to more of Boccherini?s chamber music?there?s more than enough of it still to be explored.

I?m not about to cast Agnès Mellon?s Stabat Mater to one side, but this superlative disc will certainly take an honored place beside it. And I can?t wait to hear the wonderful Karthäuser again. This is the third superb new female voice I?ve encountered in as many weeks (for the other two see my review of Handel?s Arianna in Creta ). How blissfully well endowed we are in this field at present!

FANFARE: Brian Robins
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings in G minor, Op. 24 no 6/G 194 by Luigi Boccherini
Performer:  Patrick Cohën-Akenine (Violin), Leonor de Recondo (Violin), Michel Renard (Viola),
François Poly (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Folies Françoises
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776-1778; Spain 
Stabat mater in G minor, Op. 61/G 532 by Luigi Boccherini
Performer:  François Poly (Cello), Michel Renard (Viola), Leonor de Recondo (Violin),
Patrick Cohën-Akenine (Violin), Sophie Karthäuser (Soprano), Hervé Douchy (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Folies Françoises
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Spain 

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