BOCCHERINI Six String Trios Op 34 G101‑106
The string trio is usually thought of in its Classical format, for one each of violin, viola and cello. It sprang virtually from nowhere with its first masterpiece, Mozart’s Divertimento, K563, and was followed by a handful of youthful works by Beethoven and two by Schubert. Before that, however, there was a vogue for trios consisting of a pair of violins with cello – ostensibly the Baroque trio sonata without the keyboard instrument. Haydn wrote a string of such trios during his first decade as Esterházy Kapellmeister, including one anomalous one for violin, viola and cello; these are not inconsiderable works, even if many of them remain to be recorded. The trick is, of course, to effect the fullness of sound available to the string quartet but with one of the middle voices absent.
La Ritirata here opt for a set of six by Haydn’s younger contemporary, Luigi Boccherini. These date from 1781, so gone are the remnants of trio sonata texture and in comes a full vocabulary of Classical gestures. Being one of the early practitioners of the Sturm und Drang style, Boccherini explores minor tonalities, notably in episodes of the Rondeau finale of Trio No 2 in G and at the opening of No 4 in D. The cello functions as more than just a bass instrument, being offered singing solos in the closing Rondeau of No 3 in E flat, for example.
The performances – remastered from originals recorded in March 2010 and May 2011 but which received little circulation outside Spain – pay the music full respect. We are not told the age or make of any of the three instruments but they blend together well, strings of thirds in the violins especially ringing out beautifully. And the music itself is a cut above the usual offerings of those composers in the ‘second division’ below Mozart and Haydn, with a particular memorability after only a couple of listenings that can’t always be relied on in some of these composers’ contemporaries. Good that Glossa has rescued these recordings, and a treat for those who enjoy discovering what was going on outside Vienna (and Eisenstadt) in the later 18th century.