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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quartets, op.8 (c.1768)
String Quartet in D, op.8 no.1, G.165 [14:15]
String Quartet in C minor, op.8 no.2, G.166 [12:55]
String Quartet in E flat, op.8 no.3, G.167 [12:08]
String Quartet in G minor, op.8 no.4, G.168 [13:02]
String Quartet in F, op.8 no.5, G.169 [12:41]
String Quartet in A, op.8 no.6, G.170 [11:38]
Venezia Quartet (Andrea Vio (violin); Alberto Battiston (violin); Luca Morassutti (viola); Angelo Zanin (cello))
rec. Dynamic studios, Genoa, Italy, 1-4 March 1994. DDD
DYNAMIC DM 8027 [76:54]

Experience Classicsonline

As the recording date suggests, this disc is a reissue. It was originally released by Italian label Dynamic in 1995 (CDS111) as the first of three Boccherini volumes by the Venezia (or Venice) Quartet. At the time this was the Quartet's first commercial recording, and the first of ten for the label, including for example the complete quartets of Malipiero - see review for details.
Happily, the Quartet are still making music - these days they even have their own Facebook page! - with three of the four musicians here still going strong in 2012, Giancarlo di Vacri having replaced Luca Morassutti as violist in 2010. Perhaps their most significant recording in recent years was the complete quartets of Luigi Cherubini on 3 CDs for Decca (476 3604, 2010). It should be said that none of this information is available in the accompanying booklet, which for some reason eschews performer biographies. Nor will it be found on Dynamic's less than exemplary website - the "online catalogue" promised in the booklet lists nearly 400 items but they can only be viewed ten at a time scrolling down through a small window! There is therefore no news there as to why this CD has been re-released now, other than that it constitutes Volume 27 in an apparently random series entitled 'Delizie Musicali' ('Musical Delights'). The original disc is still widely available on the internet.
Nevertheless, the Dynamic catalogue is laden with musical delights, and Boccherini's op.8 falls easily into that category. As far as his Quartets go, this set is inexplicably neglected, having been only rarely recorded. Spanish label Columna Música issued the Artaria Quartet's account of them only two years ago (1CM0221, two CDs), but there is little other competition, not even at the individual quartet level. This, then, counts as an important recording for string quartet lovers everywhere.
The first Quartet in D gets straight down to the business of being inventive, aromatic and breezy. The Venezia Quartet are in their element for the next 75 minutes, turning on the style and, taking full advantage of Boccherini's predilection for demonstrative markings in the scores - the second movement of the A major Quartet is marked 'Amoroso', for example - the expressive phrasing to communicate Boccherini's mellifluous, immaculately fashioned ideas. Boccherini was a renowned cellist, and he unsurprisingly gives his instrument a lot of virtuosic turns. Actually these are 'new school' Quartets, where the parts are divided fairly and squarely, and all four members of the Venezia get plenty of time in the sun. Boccherini's elegance is more than skin-deep, though, and the lively, witty radiance for which he is rightly famed alternates frequently with sections or indeed whole movements that are more introverted, darker, serene.
Sound quality is good for the mid-Nineties - just a little raw-edged by current standards, but nevertheless perfectly acceptable. Dynamic's booklets are a bit hit-and-miss: sometimes they are quite good, other times rather too minimalist. Love it or leave it, the cover graphic is by Martha Pilarz, no doubt related to Daniela Pilarz, Dynamic's resident translator. The brief notes are by the now-deceased Paganini authority Edward Neill, Italian despite his name, and whose own label morphed into Dynamic in the late 1970s. Daniela's translation into English does have a few odd turns of phrase as usual, as well as one or two errors, both by translator - such as "Mittleuropean" for 'central European' - and, presumably, by Neill, who states that Mozart was fifteen in 1769.
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