Notes and Editorial Reviews
It's amazing that this music remains so little known; it's simply wonderful. None of Boccherini's symphonies require trumpets and drums, most feature some sort of concertante element, and many feature a remarkably rich, even succulent sound--the result of divided string writing. No. 3, for example, requires a seven-part string ensemble, with divided violas and cellos almost throughout. The trio of the scherzo gives a delicious solo to the piccolo (flute in the Doblinger score), and whatever these works may lack in the formal ingenuity of Haydn or Mozart they more than make up for in melodic beauty and ravishing instrumental color.
The sheer sensuousness of the string writing in these pieces makes them particularly suitable to
performance on modern instruments (Boccherini is one of those composers who proves the "authentic" aversion to vibrato to be nonsense--he notates it in many different ways, going so far as to label the minuet of one of the string quintets "vibrato espressivo"). That makes these lively performances a joy to hear. Matthias Bamert paces these pieces very well, in particular finding the right contrast between the moderate tempos of the inner movements of (especially) Nos. 3 and 8. The various string and wind solos are uniformly well-played, and Chandos' sonics are aptly opulent. Go for it.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
This is an appealing disc, which forms part of the Chandos
Contemporaries of Mozart series. As with other CDs in the series - which includes recordings of music by Leopold Mozart and the Abbé Vogler - it helps to restore a neglected reputation. But repeated listening also serves to reinforce the gulf between Mozart’s genius and the lesser musical abilities of many of his contemporaries.
A first rate cellist, Boccherini’s lengthy employment by the Infante Luis Antonio of Spain placed him a little outside the European mainstream, although later patronage by King Frederick William II of Prussia and French consul Lucien Bonaparte brought him more widespread recognition.
The first two symphonies on the recording (No. 3 in D and No.8 in A) are taken from Boccherini’s ‘6 concerti a grande orchestra’, composed for the Spanish Infante in 1771. Number 3 is a bright, sunny work, which opens with a pacey and inventive Allegro. The playful string writing is typical Boccherini, as is the lilting melody and gentle pizzicati in the ensuing Andantino (track 2). The remaining two movements - a minuet and trio and a presto - disappoint by their plainness. The same can be said of the eighth symphony. Again cast in four movements, it really is an off-the-peg, ready-to-play piece. There is little development of the symphonic form and not much exploration of the orchestral forces at Boccherini’s disposal - including oboes, horns and a flute.
More interesting is the C major symphony, no. 21, which was composed as part of Boccherini’s ‘4 sinfonie a grande orchestra’ for Frederick William of Prussia in 1786. More concertante-like in its conception, it has greater instrumental variety and there is more solo writing for the flute, oboes, bassoons, horns and strings. The final Allegro (track 12) is a real gem, with comic touches from a repeated figure that is imitated alternately by the woodwind and horns. The main theme itself bears a slight resemblance to the folk melody which Haydn used in the final movement of his ‘London’ symphony, No. 104. But that is about as close as Boccherini gets to the great man, or to his brilliant contemporary Mozart.
-- John-Pierre Joyce, MusicWeb International
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