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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello concerto in G major (No.7), G. 480
Sinfonia in B flat major, G. 497
Cello concerto in D major (No.10), G. 483
Sinfonia in D minor, ’La casa del diavolo’ G. 506 Tafelmusik/Jean Lamon (director and baroque violin) Anner Bylsma (baroque cello) Recorded 25-27 November 1988 at Kirche der Karlshohe, Ludwigsburg, Germany. DDD DHM DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82876601502 [67:21]


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Italian-born Luigi Boccherini was one of the most prolific classical composers of his time, a cosmopolitan having lived in many of Europe’s major Cities: Milan, Madrid, London, Berlin and Amsterdam. His artistic gifts and pioneering talent are often overlooked as a throwback to the late-baroque period of the Italian school. As a direct contemporary of Haydn and Mozart his creative claims have undoubtedly been overshadowed by their enduring fame. In his day Boccherini was principally celebrated as a virtuoso cellist although he was a prolific composer in many genres. Not surprisingly he tended to specialise in works that featured the cello and was one of the first composers to develop the cello as a separate personality in the medium of the string quartet. Using the traditional three movement Allegro-Adagio-Allegro form, handed down from the late-baroque schools of Vivaldi and Tartini, he was able to blend virtuoso technique and cantabile harmony.

This DHM re-release does not include the unauthentic ‘Boccherini Cello Concerto’ as arranged by Friedrich Grützmacher from the concertos G. 481 and G. 482 (publ. 1895). That work has had numerous recordings over the years most notably in romantic versions from Jacqueline du Pré and Yo Yo Ma. With the exception of the famous Minuet taken from the string quintet in E, Op.13/5, the cello concerto as arranged by Grützmacher has remained Boccherini’s most popular and substantial work.

Boccherini often looks forward to the romantic style which can be heard in the extended virtuoso part for solo cello in the opening movement Allegro of the G major concerto G. 480. Boccherini’s undoubted gift for lyricism, so reminiscent of his contemporaries Mozart and Haydn, can be heard to great advantage throughout the Allegro finale of the D major concerto G. 483. On this DHM release soloist Anner Bylsma, using a baroque cello with authentic performance practice, offers secure but generally constrained and fastidious interpretations with a sense of playing from the head not the heart. I found the slow movements lacking in passion and intimacy and the Allegros rather routine and listless. Period instrument performances can sound far more interesting than this!

The most recommendable alternative versions of the G major cello concerto G. 480 and the D major cello concerto G. 483 are those from German-born soloist Julius Berger on the Brilliant Classics label. Berger, Music Professor at Mainz University has recorded all twelve Boccherini concertos and they appear on Brilliant Classics 92198. Berger has a special affinity with this music, showing a real sense of engagement which is most impressive throughout. The sensitivity of Berger’s phrasing and his beauty of tone are striking as is his control of the main melodies. His adroit embellishments are also most impressive. Professor Berger is ably assisted with sensitive and polished accompaniments from the SW German Chamber Orchestra using modern instruments under Maestro Vladislav Czarnecki. The engineers have done a marvellous job with a beautiful recorded sound which is both clear and well balanced. The seven CD boxed set from Brilliant Classics also includes three cello concertos from C.P.E. Bach, five cello concertos, the sinfonie concertante from Leonardo Leo and the two cello concertos from Haydn. At super-budget price represents a tremendous bargain.

This DHM release also contains Boccherini’s Sinfonia in B flat major, G. 497 and Sinfonia in D minor, ’La casa del diavolo’ G. 506 performed by Canadian-based ensemble Tafelmusik directed by Jean Lamon from the baroque violin. The two Sinfonias are most elegant and charming works but lack depth of content. They compare unfavourably with the works that Haydn was writing at that time when it comes to wit, variety, richness and creativity. Tafelmusik on their period instruments do not put a foot wrong in the two Sinfonias delivering very fine and enjoyable performances.

This is a well played re-release with very fine sound quality from DHM. However the opportunity has been lost by the cello soloist to reveal greater insights into Boccherini’s music.

Michael Cookson

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