Boccherini: Guitar Quintet in E minor, G451; Guitar Quintet in D, G448

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Guitar Quintet in E minor, G451; Guitar Quintet in D, G448
PERFORMER: José Miguel Moreno (guitar); La Real Cámara
Boccherini’s guitar quintets are the product of his old age when, seriously strapped for cash, he arranged a dozen of his chamber works for a patron, the Marquis Benavente. Perhaps in deference to the Marquis’s technical limitations, the guitar’s role here is usually quite modest: occasionally it takes the lead, but more often provides a murmurous background to the strings, or engages in leisurely dialogue with the first violin. And, as so often with Boccherini, ‘leisurely’ is the key word. This graceful, exquisitely textured music, with its intricate surface detail over slow-moving harmonies, is light years away from the dialectical urgency of contemporary works by Haydn and the young Beethoven. The E minor is suffused with Boccherini’s distinctive soft-hued melancholy, though both the first movement and the Minuet feature abrupt, almost crude, contrasts of key and dynamics. The D major opens with a ‘Pastorale’ full of rustic drones and avian twitterings and ends with one of Boccherini’s popular hits, a Fandango complete with clicking castanets. Some slightly starved string tone apart, performances here are highly sympathetic, with an idiomatic snap to the rhythms in the Fandango and a nice feeling for Boccherini’s sensuous textures. But it is optimistic of Glossa to ask full price for just 50 minutes of music when Narciso Yepes and the Melos Quartet offer the same works on DG at budget price and throw in a third quintet for good measure. Richard Wigmore