Boccherini: String Quartet in A, Op. 39; String Quartet in E flat, Op. 32/1; String Quartet in E minor, Op. 32/2

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: String Quartet in A, Op. 39; String Quartet in E flat, Op. 32/1; String Quartet in E minor, Op. 32/2
PERFORMER: Borciani Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555042
There’s room in the listings for sensibly priced recordings of the best of Boccherini’s string quartets, and this Naxos disc fits the bill admirably. Founded in 1984, the Borciani Quartet adopted the name of its teacher, founding leader of the Quartetto Italiano, Paulo Borciani. On this disc, it emulates the famous clarity and refined playing style of its mentor skilfully, and recorded sound is of consistent quality.

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Its effervescent and imaginative accounts of the first two quartets of the Op. 32 group of 1780 (Boccherini’s best-known quartets) have a rigour and vitality that suits the music perfectly. The Esterházy Quartet recorded all six for Teldec in 1976; its accomplished survey had the advantage of completeness, but the Borciani’s neat and spontaneous readings are just as well played, and certainly better recorded.

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In the more substantial A major Quartet, Op. 39 (1787), the players give an assured performance characterised by buoyantly sprung rhythms and vivid dynamic contrasts, probably best appreciated in the heartfelt slow movement. There’s stiffer competition here, but despite the Petersen Quartet’s wider experience in the studio, its Capriccio recording doesn’t outclass the precision and sense of involvement of the Borciani Quartet. If you’re new to the Boccherini quartets, these performances afford a splendid introduction. Michael Jameson