I once knew a man whose parents had been members
of an amateur string quartet and as an infant he slept on the
sofa while they played through the Haydn, Schubert, and Mozart,
etc., quartets year after year with their friends. As a result
his favourite music in all the world was the Haydn quartets and
other miscellaneous Classical period sonata form movements. He
had the same unquenchable thirst for this music that I have for
Bach fugues, Purcell songs and Elizabethan keyboard fantasias.
Naturally I pitied him for his narrowness as he no doubt pitied
me for mine.
Hearing these works I could enter into his aesthetic
and understand his feeling. Boccherini here earns the title of
the "Spanish Haydn" by conquering Haydn’s home territory,
the string quartet. These works have the same endless invention
and subtle, almost dignified humour that flowed so inexhaustibly
from Haydn’s pen. But Boccherini is more lyrical, more playful,
less dignified; you’re more apt to laugh out loud or sing along
and want to hear a movement two or three times at one sitting
than with Haydn. This, along with several other recent Boccherini
releases, has renewed my love for this music and created the impression
of an almost Telemannian store of riches. Buy as much as you have
room for, as much as you can afford, like pouring exquisite wine
from a bottle; but from a bottle that never gets empty, for there
is more Boccherini than any of us could encompass.
My esteemed Musicweb colleague Peter Lawson finds
less quirky humour in this music than in Haydn, whereas I find
a little more. This could be a comment on the performances available
to us, for I have not heard the Naxos release he reviewed containing
some of this same music. This Teldec analogue recording is from
1976; however, the sound is excellent and it has been in print
continuously from that time, this on a label notorious for quickly
cutting out and burying slack sellers.
Eighty-nine minutes is not much playing time
for two CDs which could hold up to 164 minutes; given the amount
of Boccherini, the second side could have easily been filled up.
The original release of this tape on CD gave you quartets Nos
2 through 6, 75 minutes worth on one CD, and depending on price
you might prefer to get that one instead.
If you listen to nothing but Palestrina, Wagner
or Webern, you probably won’t like this disk. For the rest of
us, do yourself a big favour.