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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quartet Op.32 #1 in Eb, G 201 (1780) [13.41]
String Quartet Op.32 #2 in e, G 202 (1780) [16.06]
String Quartet Op.32 #3 in D, G 203 (1780) [13.31]
String Quartet Op.32 #4 in C, G 204 (1780) [15.38]
String Quartet Op.32 #5 in g, G 205 (1780) [17.29]
String Quartet Op.32 #6 in A, G 206 (1780) [14.07]
Esterházy Quartet (Jaap Schröder, Alda Stuurop, vv; Wiel Peters, va; Wouter Moeller, vc)
Recorded at Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, The Netherlands, October 1976 ADD
Formerly released on Teldec Das Alte Werk 95988 and Teldec 85566-2 (#’s 3-6)
ELATUS 2564-60028-2 [2 CD: 88.57]


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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.

Paul Shoemaker

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