This is a delightful disc, packed with immediately appealing music by a sadly
neglected and underrated composer.
A first rate cellist, Boccherini’s lengthy employment by the Infante Luis
Antonio of Spain placed him a little outside the European mainstream. Later patronage
by King Frederick William II of Prussia and French consul Lucien Bonaparte brought
him more widespread recognition.
The main highlights of this disc are the two concertos for cello, both written
in 1770. The first of these, in C major, is strongly reminiscent of Haydn’s
own C major concerto. The lively opening Allegro sees the cello introduced in
an expansive solo, with the orchestra shadowing behind in a sustained piano.
The middle Andantino is mostly taken up with a sublime solo theme, while the
final movement is characterised by catchy rhythms in ¾ time.
The concerto in D major is no less attractive, although less accomplished than
the C major work. The string orchestra here has more of a supporting role, and
the cello writing veers much more towards the higher register of the instrument.
The final Allegro seems to hint at Mozart, with its rustic dance patterns and
Equally fascinating is Boccherini’s Octet in G major for two violins, viola,
two cellos, horn, bassoon and oboe. It is a sunny, virtuosic work, far beyond
the run-of-the-mill divertimenti of the period. The opening Andantino develops
a charming melody through alternating dialogues and ensemble passages between
the instruments. The central Adagio brings the bassoon to the fore, while the
concluding Allegro is much more of a shared conversation piece with a distinct
Less exciting is the D major Symphony, which starts the disc. Composed around
1790 for Boccherini’s Prussian patron, the work is brief at just over five
minutes long and was possibly the overture to an unidentified stage work. It
serves its purpose here as a curtain-raiser, but might have easily been left
out of the recording.
The forces of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra play with great gusto, directed
with precision and warmth by Johannes Goritzki, who also doubles as soloist in
the cello concertos. Unsurprisingly, the sound quality of the recording - made
at Southwest German Radio studios - is excellent. Close, crisp and clear, it
enables the ear to pick up every detail of this beautiful music.