If one had to come up with words to describe the music of Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805), ‘beautiful’ would certainly be among them. This month, renowned Australian soprano Sara Macliver, will join members of the Australian Haydn Ensemble in a performance of works by Boccherini and Mozart, including the Stabat Mater G532 for soprano and string quintet.
For Macliver, the opportunity for collaboration came about whilst working alongside Skye McIntosh (Principal Violin and Artistic Director) and James Eccles (Viola) at Brisbane Baroque and through association with Pinchgut Opera. “I’m really looking forward to performing a couple of works with an intimate orchestration,” Macliver tells Fine Music. “I have done the Boccherini before, and did it with two cellos. This time, they’re doing it as Boccherini intended, with a cello and a double bass. It’ll be really fascinating to see what that sonority and colour does to the whole texture of the music, because it will be so different, and it’s such a spectacular piece. I’m not sure why’s it’s not performed more often really, because it’s just so beautiful”. Macliver, who is most well known for her performances of baroque music, has a great love of the period that she is renowned for. “I have to say, without a doubt, performing the Baroque repertoire is my favourite. It just resonates so clearly with me. There’s the obvious fact that it suits my voice, but I think actually having now sung many different styles, it has probably informed my baroque practice even more,” she says. Macliver believes the dramatic power of baroque music is often underestimated: “And the freedom that you get with baroque music, particularly the opportunity you have for ornamentation, and the complexity of it is very attractive”.
She continues: “Bach, for example, is just about the ultimate to perform- the complexity of the music, and his ability to take us somewhere that we don’t necessarily think we’re going- there’s nothing predictable about it”.
Drama and energy
Audiences attending these concerts may not be familiar with some of the works in the program, particularly the Boccherini Stabat Mater- a work of incredible energy and pathos. “There’s always the hope that you will bring something to people that they will truly love and be moved by,” says Macliver. “It’s hard not to be moved by the text, because it’s from the perspective of a mother at the loss of her child, so I think that resonates quite strongly. “Boccherini was such a brilliant cellist, and he writes incredibly well for strings, but also really well for the voice. He brings a real sense of drama and energy to the music,” said Macliver, adding that she hopes the performance takes people on a journey. “There’s a conversation that goes on between the soprano and cello, and it’s a really lovely line – where the soprano finishes, the cello takes off and vice versa,” Macliver says. Looking further to the year ahead, the soprano has a full line-up including some stand-out performances. “I’m singing with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in the St Matthew Passion as part of the Festival of Voices. I’m singing a Bach program with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, and two performances with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra- the Vivaldi Gloria and the St John Passion,” says Macliver, adding that she’s excited to be travelling all over the country. This month’s performance of Beautiful Boccherini is set to be an intimate and moving experience featuring some rarely performed baroque and classical masterpieces.
– Callum Close