Boccherini: Symphonies

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COMPOSERS: Boccherini
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphonies: No. 3 in D, G503; No. 8 in A, G508; No. 21 in C, G515
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/ Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10604

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Boccherini never scaled the heights of his contemporaries Haydn and Mozart, but he was a fluent composer, tuneful, and imaginative in his orchestral scoring.

Doubled lower strings in Symphony No. 3 create a deep-pile texture; mandolin/guitar-like pizzicato in the second movement may reflect his employment in Madrid by the Spanish Infante; colourful flutes replace oboes in the minuet (though piercing piccolo solo on this recording is perhaps a quirk too far).

Repeated short motifs tend to frustrate the musical flow, particularly in the first movement of No. 8. Yet the slow movement is beautifully reflective, and perky dominant-coloured harmony opens the following Minuet.

Symphony No. 21, written in 1786 for Boccherini’s new position as ‘Composer of Our Chamber’ to Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, is especially striking. Perhaps to win over hardened old-timers in the orchestra (as did Haydn at Esterháza), he provided solos for full wind including bassoons, horns, and first violin and viola, to create virtually a Sinfonia Concertante. Its slow movement is a remarkably winning duet between chromatic oboe and cello.

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Recording balance is mostly well managed – flutes in No. 3 stand out with clarity. The London Mozart Players’s strings are outstanding. George Pratt