String Quintets Nos 1-3
I Musicanti; Leon Bosch (double bass)
Somm SOMMCD 0645 77:22 mins
Giovanni Bottesini (1821-89) pursued a three-fold career: first, as the leading double bass virtuoso of his day, then turning to opera conducting – including the world premiere of Verdi’s Aida – while turning out an opera and concertos of his own plus, exceptionally for an Italian composer of his generation, a substantial body of chamber music, including four quintets, the first three of which comprise this disc. Only No. 1, the Gran Quintetto, supplements the string quartet line-up with a double bass; No. 2 reverts to the Boccherini model with extra cello, and No. 3, like Mozart, deploys an extra viola.
This little-known music reveals a highly accomplished composer, with well-formed melodies, inventive part-writing, nicely contrasted textures and an easeful command of long-term continuities. Its Romanticised neo-classicism recalls Mendelssohn, though in spirit and attainment is closest to Spohr. Occasionally one finds something neither of those composers might have written, such as the teasing waltz-scherzo of Quintet No. 3.
I Musicanti offers vivacious, colourful, flowing and finely nuanced accounts, with the noted double bassist Leon Bosch zooming and booming away in the depths of the Gran Quintetto. The recording is spacious and immediate, as though the players are arrayed right in front of one.