Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Symphony No. 3 in D major, G 503 [25:54]
Symphony No. 8 in A major, G 508 [23:42]
Symphony No. 21 in C major, G 515 [16:59]
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, London, January 2009. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10604 [65:55]
This is an appealing disc, which forms part of the Chandos Contemporaries of Mozart series. As with other CDs in the series - which includes recordings of music by Leopold Mozart and the Abbé Vogler - it helps to restore a neglected reputation. But repeated listening also serves to reinforce the gulf between Mozart’s genius and the lesser musical abilities of many of his contemporaries.
A first rate cellist, Boccherini’s lengthy employment by the Infante Luis Antonio of Spain placed him a little outside the European mainstream, although later patronage by King Frederick William II of Prussia and French consul Lucien Bonaparte brought him more widespread recognition.
The first two symphonies on the recording (No. 3 in D and No.8 in A) are taken from Boccherini’s ‘6 concerti a grande orchestra’, composed for the Spanish Infante in 1771. Number 3 is a bright, sunny work, which opens with a pacey and inventive Allegro. The playful string writing is typical Boccherini, as is the lilting melody and gentle pizzicati in the ensuing Andantino (track 2). The remaining two movements - a minuet and trio and a presto - disappoint by their plainness. The same can be said of the eighth symphony. Again cast in four movements, it really is an off-the-peg, ready-to-play piece. There is little development of the symphonic form and not much exploration of the orchestral forces at Boccherini’s disposal - including oboes, horns and a flute.
More interesting is the C major symphony, no. 21, which was composed as part of Boccherini’s ‘4 sinfonie a grande orchestra’ for Frederick William of Prussia in 1786. More concertante-like in its conception, it has greater instrumental variety and there is more solo writing for the flute, oboes, bassoons, horns and strings. The final Allegro (track 12) is a real gem, with comic touches from a repeated figure that is imitated alternately by the woodwind and horns. The main theme itself bears a slight resemblance to the folk melody which Haydn used in the final movement of his ‘London’ symphony, No. 104. But that is about as close as Boccherini gets to the great man, or to his brilliant contemporary Mozart.
John-Pierre Joyce
Lilting melody and gentle pizzicati.