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Excitingly Played

The MHS Review 380 Vol. 11, NO. 2 • 1987

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David M. Greene


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The liner notes to this recording written by one Hans Christoph Worbs, imply that Boccherini's music is, like Goya's painting, representative of Spanish rococo art. Well, doubtless Herr Worbs is an ex­pert and I am only a superannuated teacher of English, but I always thought of Boccherini as, like Haydn and Mozart, a classicist, and Goya as, perhaps, a pre-romantic. Trying to pursue the notion, however, I quick­ly found myself up to the neck in the Dismal Swamp of equivocation.

I learned that rococo, a term that indicates a reaction to the heaviness and complexity of the baroque, is properly applied to Louis Quinze decoration and painting, that what is sometimes termed "rococo music" is really galant (which seems to mean that it is gracefully melodic and thin of texture), and that no one seems really to agree on just what rococo and classical signify. Herr Worbs clearly means that Boccherini's music fails to mope around and wax philosophical, as does that of some of his contemporaries. I'm not sure what he means about Goya, but Pro­fessor Guglielmo Barbian tells us in The New Encyclopedia Britannica that the composer and the painter were close friends, and that Boc­cherini was the "musical represen­tative of the 'Goya era,"' whatever that may purport.

Barbian also tells us that, besides helping get the nascent string quartet on its feet, Boccherini in vented both the string quintet and the piano quintet. He also tells us that a Spanish theorist, Antonio Eximeno, called him "the delight of Europe'' (presumably exclusive of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Delight being another matter), but

he fails to say anything about Boc­cherini 's relationship to the guitar quintet. Grove indicates, in a foot­note to its list of string quintets, that he wrote 12. The reason for the footnote status is that they were ar­ranged by Boccherini from other works, chiefly piano quintets, doubtless because there were at least as many guitars as pianos in Spain.

The present record is the first of three devoted to--and I quote--­"Boccherini: The Guitar Quintets." This implies comprehensiveness, but only eight (nos. 1-7 and 9) are included. But don't feel cheated: the others, we arc told, have vanished. On this recording you get nos. 1 and 2, which derive from the second and fourth of the op. 57 Piano Quintets (Gerard 414 and 416), and no. 7, from op. 56, no. 1 (G. 407).

Are you beginning to have a sense of deja vu? Me too! And with reason: these same works appeared not too long ago on MHS 7041T and 7095M, in what looked like the start of a similar series by Daniel Benko and the Eder Quartet. Maybe it wasn't. Who knows? Anyhow, here we go again. You want an opinion? The present version is more excitingly played, much better recorded, and this disc gives you three for the price of two. Axioms speak louder than Worbs!

Review of Volume I of the Guitar Quintets by Luigi Boccherini jpg 7

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