Notes and Editorial Reviews
String Quintet in c. String Sextet in f. String Quartet in c. String Trio in D
Europa Galante (period instruments)
VIRGIN 12149 (74:10)
We’ve been getting our dose of Boccherini for some time in published swaths: the entire string quintets from La Magnifica Communità (Brilliant Classics); the String Quartets, op. 58, with the Revolutionary Drawing Room (cpo); the String Quartets, op. 32, with Quartetto Borciani (Naxos); the complete cello concertos with either Julius Berger (Ebs) or Enrico
Bronzi (Brilliant Classics), etc. So it’s relatively unusual to receive what amounts to a thematic disc on the composer, one that offers up four examples of Boccherini’s chamber music dating from 1772 to 1792. The varied instrumentation cleverly displays his ability to surmount a variety of challenges in musical balance—none more so, than the Sextet in F Minor from 1776, whose richness of sound, elaborate part-writing, and dramatic use of full registers stamps it as the work of a master in the medium.
Another, more controversial aspect of this album’s musical selections is that it purports to show the increasing complexity of Boccherini’s music over time. This runs counter to an older trope that contrasts Haydn, who took the string quartet down its only right and proper path, to Boccherini, whose many gifts were frustrated by a typically Mediterranean disinterest in the evolutionary path of music. While any person familiar with the range of the composer’s music recognizes its growing structural and tonal intricacy, its personal and often novel solutions to a number of issues—such as the identical key and thematic content in the first and final movements of the String Quartet in C Minor—it’s difficult to make this case apparent based on the encyclopedic collections mentioned above. Europa Galante would deserve thanks for this alone, even if their performances had been less than effective.
As it happens, their Boccherini is technically outstanding. The virtuosic Presto finale of the String Quintet in C Minor provides an excellent example: the nearly constant need to rebalance parts; the ever-changing dynamic levels and complex, shifting rhythms; the mix of lyrical and dramatic,
and folk material; all is met with ease. One aspect of first violinist Fabio Biondi’s Vivaldi performances that I’m pleased to see carry over into Europa Galante’s Boccherini is a respect for slow tempos. The
of the Sextet really fits that description, creating a breathing space of
depth between a breezy, gallant minuet and a giddily Italianate finale. The singing (literally
) slow movement of the String Quartet is never allowed to collapse under the weight of Romantic heaviness, but still supplies a counterweight to the edgy, grim finale.
With excellent engineering, generous timings, and fine liner notes, this is a release that admirers of Boccherini will certainly appreciate.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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