Boccherini: Guitar Quintets, G445, G446, G447

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Guitar Quintets, G445, G446, G447
PERFORMER: Zoltan Tokos (guitar)Danubius String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550551/2 DDD
Luigi Boccherini, composer and cello virtuoso, is probably best known for his string quintets, cello concertos and early forays into symphonic form. A contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, his work has necessarily been overshadowed by theirs and, despite a formidable output of nearly 500 compositions, he has never enjoyed great popularity with the record-buying public.

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His 12 guitar quintets, of which eight survive, were written in the late 1790s when Boccherini was based in Spain, and are dedicated to his friend and patron the Marquis of Benavente, himself a keen guitarist. Adapted mostly from his existing piano quintets, these guitar pieces, though sprinkled with charming moments, have never been ranked among Boccherini’s most inspired creations.

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Of the six presented on these two discs, G448, with its attractive Allegro maestoso and flamboyant Fandango climax, plus the vivacious G450 stand out, even in these rather lacklustre performances. The Danubius Quartet fails to capture the stinging zest of this music. Perhaps period instruments would have added a dash of much needed colour; as it is, the strings meld into bland homogeneity – a fault further aggravated by a curious sound balance that often renders guitarist Zoltan Tokos virtually inaudible in the ensemble passages. Graham Lock