WORKS: Quintet No. 91; Sextet No. 4; String Quartet No. 56; String Trio No. 22
PERFORMER: Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: 212 1492
This subtly programmed disc offers four string textures, trio to sextet, from three distinct periods of Boccherini’s composing career. The best, and latest, comes first – one of the 47 two-cello quintets written for Frederick William of Prussia, himself a fine amateur cellist.
This is its premiere recording, its opening Adagio revealing eight minutes of deeply expressive harmony and imaginative textures as the royal patron’s first cello shares a soloistic role with first violin. The Minuet is striking, quirkily trying to disguise its rhythm before relenting with an emphatic triple-time trio.
When Boccherini was forced to move with his employer’s court into cultural isolation, 100 miles from Madrid, he capitalised on the available players with a set of sextets. No. 4 recorded here is lightly and selectively scored, despite the richer palette of colours and textures from two each of violins, violas and cellos.
The opening Allegro moderato is a touch nonchalant, Europa Galante perhaps seduced by Boccherini’s ‘soave’, (‘gentle’) instruction to first violin, though the Grave third movement is deeply felt – as is the Andante flebile (‘plaintive’) third movement of the quartet.
Recorded sound is close, lending immediacy though, in the most forceful moments. It also generates some razor-edged tone from first violin. George Pratt