Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quintets Op. 28 (1779): No. 1 in F G307 [23:40]; No. 2 in A G308 [13:21]; No. 3 in E flat G309 [17:23]; No. 4 in C G310 [21:06]; No. 5 in D minor G311 [19:29]; No. 6 in B flat G312 [18:41]
La Magnifica Comunità (Enrico Casazza and Isabella Longo (violins), Massimo Piva - (viola), Luigi Puxeddu, Simone Treppo, Elio Andriotto (cellos))
rec. Chiesa di Cavarzere, Venice, Italy - no dates given
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93977 [54:31+59:44]
I sometimes wonder whether I am alone in being daunted by the sheer quantity of music that some composers produce in particular genres. Haydn’s Symphonies, Bach’s Cantatas, Scarlatti’s Sonatas are all good examples. Wonderful music with scarcely a dud amongst them, but the quantity of each tends to make it difficult to really get to know particular works well enough to be able to savour their individuality. This used to be less of a problem with Boccherini in the days when only a handful of Quintets had been recorded but in these days of multiple versions and complete editions it can loom large. This is a great pity, as I suspect that once we know these Quintets well enough - as well as, say Haydn’s Symphonies or Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas - they will stand out as a body of work of immense variety and fascination. Perhaps not equal in musical merit to the two series I have mentioned but capable of giving considerable pleasure to the listener both individually and as a body of work. All of this is by way of saying that I am still struggling to put a series of Quintets like the set of six which comprise his Op. 28 into a proper context. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of them but I would still have difficulty in “placing” them as a group in relation to the rest of the composer’s output.
Nonetheless what matters is the quality of the music and of the performances. Even if these Quintets may not be amongst the very greatest music they are tremendously attractive, wonderfully imaginative in their textures, and surprisingly varied in character. All are in four movements; with a Minuet second in three and third in the other three, and with a slow movement first in No. 3 but otherwise always starting with an Allegro. The individuality however goes far beyond this, varying from swaggering assertiveness to gentle melancholy or deeper feelings, and everything in between. It is possible to listen to the two discs in succession without monotony and indeed with great pleasure.
In part this is due to the performances. La Magnifica Comunità play on original instruments and the limited use of vibrato in particular greatly enhances the effect of the music, bringing out subtle textures and harmonies. At times speeds seemed a little too fast for the full character of the music, and even for its detailed textures, to emerge but this is not a serious problem. The recording seems a little close at times but is by no means too harsh as a result. Interesting notes by Malcolm Macdonald complete a very desirable and worthwhile package which represents a very good way of getting to know and understand part of a fascinating and still relatively unfamiliar body of work.
John Sheppard
Very desirable and worthwhile … a very good way of getting to know and understand a fascinating and relatively unfamiliar body of work.