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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743 - 1805): Flute Quintets Op 19

Auser Musici

rec: March 30 - April 1, 2007, Pisa, Oratorio di S. Domenico
Hyperion - CDA67646 ( 2008) (69'09")

Quintet No 1 in E flat (G 425); Quintet No 2 in g minor (G 426); Quintet No 3 in C (G 427); Quintet No 4 in D (G 428); Quintet No 5 in B flat (G 429); Quintet No 6 in D 'Las Parejas' (G 430)

Carlo Ipata, transverse flute; Luca Ronconi, Francesco La Bruna, violin; Teresa Ceccato, viola; Luigi Puxeddu, cello

In the 18th century there were several reasons for composers to write music. Most were at the service of a church or a court, and delivered the music which was expected from them. But sometimes they wrote music for specific individuals, for instance a musician who was a virtuoso on his instrument. Some composers were virtuosos themselves, and they composed music to play during private or public concerts. Luigi Boccherini's oeuvre reflects all these possibilities.

Since 1770 he was at the service of Don Luis, Infante of Spain and brother of King Carlos III. He was an avid and apparently accomplished player of the cello which explains the large production of quintets with two cello parts - the first and most demanding cello part to be played by Boccherini himself. In the years 1773 and 1774 Boccherini wrote three collections of chamber music with parts for the transverse flute. It is not known why exactly he did so, but it is very likely there was an accomplished flautist at the Infante's court at the time. The role of the flute is different in these collections. The Divertimenti opus 16, for instance, were called divertimentos for two violins, flute obbligato, viola, two cellos (again!) and double bass (three of these divertimenti have been recorded by Piccolo Concerto Wien - Symphonia SY 01188). In the quintets recorded by Auser Musici the flute plays a more prominent role, but not as much as in most chamber music pieces for flute and strings by Boccherini's contemporaries. Remarkable is the role of the cello: in two movements, the first of the quintets 3 and 4, it plays a very prominent role. In these movements cello and flute are involved in a dialogue which puts the other instruments at the sideline.

Five of the six quintets are in two movements, fast - fast, slow (or moderate) - fast or fast - faster. This puts these quintets in the realm of the divertimento: most divertimento-like compositions of the second half of the 18th century were in two movements. This had also a very prosaic reason: pieces like this were relatively cheap and therefore commercially more interesting than longer works. As Marco Mangani writes in the booklet: "As disappointing as it may be to champions of art as a mission, that was the way Boccherini and his contemporaries treated the matter". The idea of 'l'art pour l'art' (art for art's sake) was still very far away.

The fact that these pieces are divertimentos doesn't make them easy to play. As already indicated two of the quintets contain sophisticated cello parts, and there can be hardly any doubt that these were to be played by Boccherini himself. But also in content these quintets are more than just easy-listening stuff. The first movement of the Quintet No 2 is pretty dramatic, and the opening movements of the Quintets 3 and 4 contain a lot of expression.

The last quintets also have something special to offer. The Quintet No 5 ends with a brilliant and exciting presto assai. The Quintet No 6 is the only one with three movements, and has a descriptive character, like the famous 'Musica notturna di Madrid'. The title is 'Las Parejas', which means 'the couples'. The first movement is called 'Entrada - Marcia' (entrance - march), the second 'Galope' (gallop), which is followed by a repeat of the first movement. "The title refers to a typical Spanish horse race, in which two horsemen run hand in hand". The way Boccherini has set this scene has almost orchestral traits, and one can only admire the vivid picture he is painting here with music.

The players apparently immensely enjoy this piece, as it is played with panache and fantasy. But the other quintets are realised just as well. The flautist Carlo Ipata plays his part with technical assurance and great feeling for the character of the music, sometimes delicate and almost tender, like in the first movement of the fourth quintet, sometimes firm, like in the last movement of Quintet No 5. The cellist Luigi Puxeddu is excellent in dealing with the intricacy of his part. The ensemble as a whole has provided a very enjoyable recording of these fine quintets which shows how exciting diverting music can be if composed by a master like Luigi Boccherini and played by such an excellent ensemble as Auser Musici.

Johan van Veen ( 2009)

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