Notes and Editorial Reviews
Finely crafted, lively, elegant, witty, and mellifluous.
As is obvious from the recording date, this triple CD is a reissue, the Trios originally released by the long-defunct Italian label Arcophon, the Symphonies by the old German label Telefunken. The recordings were subsequently acquired by another Italian label, Rivo Alto, who made their own re-releases in the 1980s and 1990s, most of which seem to be available still on the internet.
Newton give the recording date of both the Trios and the Symphonies as 1971. Most internet retailers and reviewers like Records International agree, but the odd retailer and the Luigi Boccherini Society, which has a detailed if tardy discography, give the recording date of the Trios as 1969. Certainly, audition makes it clear that the Trios and Symphonies were not recorded at the same time.
In fact sound quality ranges from pretty good in the Trios to merely passable in the Symphonies. In the Trios there is a slightly raw edge to the string sound, and some loss of definition in the Symphonies, sometimes audible as outright distortion. There is also an occasional tendency in higher ranges to echo - this may well have been added during transfer to CD, though almost certainly not by Newton. Furthermore, time and space were precious on LPs and sometimes corners were cut by fading down the final reverberations at the ends of tracks and even by chopping intros almost too fine: there is evidence of that here, though it is not ruinous, except at the end of the G.511 Symphony, which loses at least its final second. There are some fairly discreet editing points in the Symphonies, again especially in G.511.
Fortunately, performances have withstood the passage of time better than the recordings. The impressive Filarmonici di Bologna are skilfully conducted by Angelo Ephrikian, who was, incidentally, the musical brains of the Arcophon label to tyre tycoon Giovanni Pirelli's money. Alas, Ephrikian will not be among those who enjoy these re-releases - he died thirty years ago. By the way, a recording of Boccherini's subsequent Symphonies - his last - appeared only a few months ago in another re-release, this time on Phoenix.
The Trio Arcophon, now as defunct as the label, are even better: confident, agile and thoughtful, with a lovely line in phrasing. Rather surprisingly, forty years on there is still no other commercial recording of these Trios available.
As for Boccherini's music, that is as finely crafted, lively, elegant, witty, and mellifluous as ever. He was only 17 when he wrote the six Trios, yet they are works of considerable sophistication and variety, occasionally sounding strikingly symphonic, enhanced both by sometimes startling chromaticism and the prominence of Boccherini's own instrument, the cello. Boccherini entered the Trios as his op.1 in his autograph catalogue, but they were published seven years later in Paris as his "op.2", with his own slightly later op.2 Quartets becoming "op.1". The Symphonies, scored primarily for strings with the judicious employment of a pair of horns and oboes and an
ad lib bassoon - the winds always omitted from the slow movements - are reminiscent of Haydn, but Boccherini always has more than sufficient originality to go his own way.
The brand-new English-German-French booklet notes by Richard Lawrence give a potted biography of Boccherini, followed by an easy-to-read but intelligent account of the music. As is often the case in these Newton re-releases, performer biographies are conspicuous by their total absence.
-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International