Boccherini: String Quintet in C, G310; String Quintet in C, G349; String Quintet in B minor, G350; String Quintet in D, G353

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: String Quintet in C, G310; String Quintet in C, G349; String Quintet in B minor, G350; String Quintet in D, G353
PERFORMER: Vanbrugh Quartet; Richard Lester (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67383
No 18th-century string music exudes such sensuous delight in texture as Boccherini’s quintets. By the standards of Haydn and Mozart, the four works recorded here are leisurely and discursive. But this is absorbing music that constantly exploits the ensemble’s potential for rich and flamboyant sonorities, whether in the guitar and castanet effects, the languorously sustained inner voices or the soaring love duets for first violin and cello. The minuets have Boccherini’s typical mixture of voluptuous grace and restless detail, while fast movements are by turns decorous and explosive, sometimes – as in the Rondeau finale of the C major, G310 – with an exotic Iberian folk flavour. As so often with Boccherini, though, it is the slow movements that linger longest in the memory, above all the doleful Andante larghetto of G353 and the Grave of G310, music of caressing softness and sweetness.

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The augmented Vanbrugh Quartet, with Richard Lester superbly eloquent in the high-lying first cello parts, plays with all the colour, refinement and lusty vigour this music needs. Listen, for instance, to the tender moulding of the cantilenas in the slow movement of G310, and the way the players make the little ornamental flourishes expressive rather than merely decorative; or to the irresistible snap and swagger they bring to another of Boccherini’s Spanish-influenced movements, the finale of G349.

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The recording is warm and true, and there is a long essay from Keith Pascoe that, unlike many booklet notes, really whets the appetite for the music on offer. Richard Wigmore