American Record Guide
Independent critics reviewing classical recordings and music in concert
LUCHESI: Salve Regina; Stabat Mater; Kyrie; Miserere; Te Deum Laura Antonaz, Elena Biscuola, Luca Dordolo, Matteo Bellotto; Busoni Chamber Orchestra; Trieste Civic Chorus/ Massimo Belli Concerto 2098—61 minutes
“Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801) began his career in Venice, where he was trained in both operatic and sacred composition. He had operatic successes in Venice and accepted commissions to write both sacred and secular works there.
He was also renowned as a performer on the harpsichord and organ, and in 1768 he was invited to play for the dedication of the organ at Padua Cathedral. In 1771 he led a traveling opera company to Germany.
In 1774 the Elector Archbishop of Cologne appointed him court Kapellmeister in Bonn, and that became Luchesi’s home base for the remainder of his career, though he still traveled. After the closing of the court theater, Luchesi’s primary occupation was to supply sacred music for the court chapel.
The sacred works on this recording date from 1768 to 1773, though it is likely that the instrumentation was revised in the years at Bonn. When faced with a little-known composer of the 18th Century, I have come to expect technically competent but unimaginative note-spinning. That is certainly not the case with Luchesi, whose writing is elegantly mellifluous and lyrical with frequent touches of dramatic expression. He was sometimes criticized in his day for failing to observe the distinctions between the operatic and churchly styles, but we would not regard that as a fault today.
He won the admiration of many contemporaries. Burney declared him “a very pleasing composer”. La Borde referred to “a particularly graceful style, concise and energetic arrangement of the parts, and new ideas”. Mozart included one of Luchesi’s piano concertos in his repertory and wrote an original cadenza for it.
The Salve Regina, Stabat Mater, and Te Deum are concise settings of the texts, yet Luchesi never gives the impression that he is mechanically scampering through it as quickly as possible. Even Vivaldi is guilty of that in some of his briefer psalm settings. Luchesi’s settings do not sound cramped or rushed. The other two pieces on the program are more expansive. The three-movement Kyrie probably dates from 1768 and was taken to the court chapel at Dresden by Luchesi’s contemporary Johann Gottlieb Naumann, who held a position as composer there. The Miserere is the largest-scale work on the program, and like the others, it alternates vocal solos and combinations of solo voices with full choir. Here and there are passages that remind the listener of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.
The technical standard of these performances is very high. If it is not equal to the very best singers and instrumentalists for this kind of repertory, it is not far behind. In rare moments the choir’s tone is not perfectly blended or refined. Sometimes the soloists seem to be working too hard at their lines, but these too are exceptional moments. Most important, these are warmly engaging performances of highly attractive music directed by Massimo Belli with admirable pacing and coherence.
They are claimed as first recordings. There is only one other recording of music by Luchesi in the ARG index: a disc of instrumental works including the piano concerto with Roberto Plano as soloist with the same orchestra and conductor as on this recording (Concerto 2077; March/April 2014). Catherine Moore gave it a highly favorable review. Enclosed with the present recording is an advertising brochure containing notices of two further recordings of orchestral and solo piano works.”