Boccherini: String Quintet in E, G275, String Quintet in F minor, G348, String Quintet in G minor, G351

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: String Quintet in E, G275, String Quintet in F minor, G348, String Quintet in G minor, G351
PERFORMER: Vanbrugh Quartet; Richard Lester (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67287
Boccherini has never had it so good, with discs of his chamber music tumbling off the presses almost every month. None, though, is likely to give more pleasure than this collection of string quintets with two cellos, the medium he made his own. First on the agenda is the E major Quintet with the world’s most famous minuet, the very epitome of perfumed rococo elegance. But the opening Amoroso is even more beguiling, full of languorous dialogues and a very Mediterranean sweetness and sensuality, There is plenty of Boccherini’s characteristic grace and morbidezza in the two later minor-keyed quintets, along with his trademark fondness for picturesque textures — syncopations, guitar-like tremolos, glassy violin harmonics and so on. But both works also have their serious, even passionate side, especially the G minor, with its severe, tightly unified opening movement and unusually terse, dynamic finale – a riposte to the old jibe about Boccherini being ‘Haydn’s wife’. Playing on modern instruments but with a keen sense of period style (vibrato, for instance, is sparingly used), the Vanbrugh gives performances it would be hard to beat: shrewdly paced and balanced (the minuet a shade more sprightly than usual), alluringly phrased and ever alive to the music’s delicate detail and often colourful, pungent textures. Richard Wigmore

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