Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Album Review: Boccherini

Click here to sample and buy the album!

How many pieces of chamber music do you know with castanets in them? We have one here: the brilliant Luigi Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 6 in D major. The quintet is one of four works on this delightful album by Cuarteto Casals. The album takes its title from Boccherini’s innovative foray into programmatic chamber music, the String Quintet in C Major.

Italian by birth, Boccherini was a musician at the court of the Spanish Infante Luis. When the Infante was banished from Madrid, Boccherini accompanied him to a town near Ávila and composed the quintet to cheer up his boss. Boccherini sketched out a detailed program with the quintet imitating the sounds of bells, drum-rolls, marches and more.

From the opening note imitating the sound of church bells Cuarteto Casals is at the top of its game. This is a refined performance that also has a flair for the dramatic. By the way, fans of the film Master and Commander will certainly recognize the quintet’s “Los manolos” theme from the film’s closing scene. There’s more familiar music on the album. The suave String Quintet No. 6 in E minor contains what is arguably Boccherini’s most famous piece, the Minuetto. Cuarteto Casals and cellist Eckart Runge’s performance is a model of elegance and never flirts with the prissy quality that some ensembles bring to this music.

The next work, the String Quartet in G minor is a neglected masterpiece. Here’s Boccherini trying on the Viennese classical style and wearing it well. This is a quartet with a serious heart and innovative spirit. The middle movements, a songlike Andantino and edgy Menuetto and Trio, are notable standouts. Oh yes, the castanets. Guitarist Carles Trepat plays with a subtlety in the Guitar Quintet and then snaps off the Spanish rhythms, with the assistance of Daniel Tummer on castanets, in the closing Fandango. I love the recordings Fabio Biondi made with Europa Galante of some of this music, but Cuarteto Casals is now at the top of my list.

Click here to sample and buy the album!

-Craig Zeichner
Editor, Ariama.com

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