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CD REVIEW
BARGAIN OF THE MONTH



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MWI RECORDING
OF THE YEAR


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Orchestral Music


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Always expect the unexpected

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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quintet in A Minor Op. 25 No. 6 [23:48]
String Quintet in C Op. 25 No. 4 [19:52]
String Quintet in D Minor Op. 25 No. 1 [15:55]
String Quintet in E Op. 11 No. 5 – Minuetto [3:40]
Europa Galante (Fabio Biondi, Enrico Casazza (violins); Ernesto Braucher (viola); Maurizio Naddeo, Antonio Fantonuoli (cellos))
rec. Montevarchi (Toscare), Italy, 5-8 December 1999
VIRGIN CLASSICS 50999 503 4082 8 [59:97] 

 


This is quite simply the most enjoyable recording of the music of Boccherini that I have ever heard. The playing is at once cultivated and fresh. Every opportunity is taken to bring out the many contrasts of texture, volume and articulation inherent in the music, and for once there is never any sense that the players find the music in any way routine or unimportant. As a result, neither does the listener, and I found that each time I put the disc on I was immediately hooked, wanting to know what came next and how the players would treat it. Admittedly there are a few moments where it might be possible to charge them with some exaggeration of the unpredictability that they find in the music, but better this than a too polite approach depriving it of its special character, so different from that of Haydn or Mozart. There are special delights to be found in each movement – for instance, the turbulent first movement of the A Minor Quintet or the strange Minuet of the D Minor. Throughout I was astonished at the different sounds that the composer manages to conjure using the additional cello, and at his delightful use of Spanish rhythms and melodic patterns. 

The recording is clear with a good balance between the instruments. The only criticism I can make is of a small error in listing the contents on the sleeve and in the booklet. These refer to the final track as being the Larghetto from Op. 25 No. 4. It is in fact the Minuet which at one time was all that was performed by the composer – from Op. 11 No. 5 in E. The first time I heard it here I enjoyed the added decorations in the repeat of the Minuet although I am not convinced that they wear well on repetition. It is however simple to omit this track when playing the recordings of the three complete Quintets. When that is done, it is clear why this disc should be included in a series entitled “The Gramophone Classical Music Guide recommends”. It well deserved such a recommendation, and it can be strongly recommended again in this reissue.

John Sheppard

 


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