Leo is considered as one of the major exponents of the Baroque Neapolitan School and during his relatively short life, he was extremely influential as well as prolific. Born in 1694, he studied in his native city from 1709 till 1713. Being an excellent organist, he managed to hold several organ posts in Naples itself, and in his latter years he also taught there.
In 1744, the year of his death, he was appointed choirmaster of the Royal Chapel. His output is huge, some 50 operas, church music and several concertos, particularly for violin and cello. Among his more famous pupils, one can single out Jommelli, Pergolesi and Piccinni. In spite of this vast oeuvre, recordings of Leo's music are to say the least, scarce, so this two-CD set from Arts is welcome indeed. Although the music might appear relatively easy and straightforward, for listeners is Leo's day, it sounded complex and brilliantly virtuosic, particularly the cello parts and Arturo Bonucci's interpretations are not only full of refreshing vigour but lucidly faithful to the wonderful inventions of the composer.
Incidentally, Bonucci also conducts the Ensemble Strumentale Italiano, a group of excellent string players whose passion for these 18th-century gems is very evident in their expressive articulation. Engineering and annotations are of a truly high standard, although some sort of information on Leo's life would have given this set an added lustre. All the same, this is an important addition to the catalogue to be enjoyed and appreciated by all genuine music lovers.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech