Boccherini Flute Quintets

Author: 
Stanley Sadie

Boccherini Flute Quintets

  • (6) Flute Quintets, No. 6 in B flat, G442
  • (6) Flute Quintets, No. 1 in F, G437
  • (6) Flute Quintets, No. 2 in G, G438
  • (6) Flute Quintets, No. 3 in C, G439
  • (6) Flute Quintets, No. 5 in G, G441

These quintets come from a set of six in a Madrid manuscript with an attribution to Boccherini: they are not in Boccherini’s own catalogue of his works, which doesn’t necessarily exclude their authenticity (he noted in it most of his true chamber music, though not the cello sonatas or the keyboard ones); they sound as if they date from the 1780s, and the presence of an obbligato cello part does of course imply at least some link with him. This is claimed as their world premiere recording.
They are very agreeable and on the whole deftly written pieces, but to my mind don’t quite have the ring of his style: their formal regularity, their sometimes motivic writing (the first movement of the G major work, for example), and the frequent spells of rather routine invention argue against his authorship, as does the three-movement form (he preferred, oddly, two-movement opere piccole or four-movement opere grande), the absence of minuets (a movement type he patently relished) and the presence of three very schematic variation finales (a type he avoided). The compiler of the Boccherini thematic catalogue thought that they had “formulas and turns of style which are characteristic of him”, on reading through the parts, but since he evidently didn’t notice that they were for flute, violin, viola and two cellos (as opposed to flute and string quartet) I am inclined to think the reading-through wasn’t too rigorous.
By Boccherini or not, they make pleasant listening. They don’t demand that special affection for detail or feeling for texture that the most characteristic Boccherini needs, and respond well to these direct, modern performances, neatly phrased, the dialogues gracefully executed. The first cellist, who has several flights into the upper reaches of his instrument, is very assured, and there is also the particular pleasure of Jean-Pierre Rampal’s flute playing, as urbane as ever.'

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