BOCCHERINI String Quintets
The Cuarteto Casals have twice before given us discs featuring Spanish music – Arriaga (1/04), Turina and Toldrá (6/07) – so it was only natural that Boccherini would eventually follow. This release welcomes in a trio of guests, so they can head straight for the familiar in the shape of the string quintets responsible for the immortal Minuet and the programmatic depiction of the street nightlife of Madrid respectively, and the Guitar Quintet that ends with the rightly popular Fandango. Alongside these, as if to prove that they can look a little further than that, comes a serious, though hardly angst-ridden, Quartet in G minor.
It seems a little odd to start the programme with the “Madrid” quintet. The surprise pizzicato bell effects of the opening were perhaps too hard to resist but this really is a novelty piece, and a rather static one at that, and it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to listen to it all that often when the other pieces offer so much character and charm. Op 11 No 5 opens with a silky, con sordini slow movement whose heading of amoroso could not be bettered as a description, and the mutes later add their dreamlike touch to “the” Minuet. The Guitar Quintet opens with a balmy Pastorale, only gradually rousing itself to a Fandango that, for all its castanet outbreaks, never loses its proud bearing.
The performances certainly capture the languid southern sensuality of this music; the Cuarteto Casals are not afraid of modern-style vibrato, yet still keep the atmosphere light as a warm breeze. In music that relies more for its design on changes of texture and timbre than on motivic incident, this is surely the right approach, but I did wonder if there were times in the less sultry movements when things were allowed to remain a little too sleepy. I confess my attention did wander from time to time…