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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Octet in E flat major Op. 20 [31:54]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Quintet in C major Op. 37 No. 7 [19:50]
Academy of St Martin in the Fields ((Hugh Maguire, Neville Marriner, Iona Brown, Trevor Connor (violins), Stephen Shingles, Kenneth Essex (violas), Kenneth Heath, Denis Vigay (cellos))
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 13 June, 14 November 1967
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 7425 [51:50]

When you hear the superbly ebullient, well phrased and sensitive opening to the Octet in this clear, well balanced and very lifelike recording it is hard to believe that it was recorded nearly half a century ago. It made a great impression on me when it was first issued and heard again after a long interval it has done so again. The clarity of the internal balance, helped by the composer’s skill but by no means to be taken for granted in other performances, the lightness with which the Scherzo is delivered, the eloquence of the slow movement and the sheer gusto with which the players in turn enter in the Finale - each of these in turn surprises and delights the listener.
 
The original coupling of one of Boccherini’s best works remains, and that too is wholly delightful. This is music that responds to the detailed and imaginative treatment it gets here and which brings out the composer’s ability to create textures of ravishing beauty.
 
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is now a body which seems to exist in an almost infinite variety of sizes and instrumental combination, but its early discs, when it was simply a small but very distinguished string group, have a very special quality. This was always one of the best of those discs and its reissue is greatly to be welcomed. I am usually a little suspicious of reviews that suggest that a disc is perfect in every particular so I could point out that there was space to fill the disc with one or more other of the Academy’s other early recordings. However when what is included is of such supreme quality that would be a merely churlish comment. Better to say that this is in every way a superb disc and that if you have not heard it already the pleasure it will give for a small outlay is wholly exceptional.  

John Sheppard