Boccherini & Verdi: String Quartets

Author: 
Stanley Sadie

Boccherini & Verdi: String Quartets

  • (6) String Quartets, No. 3 in E flat, G167
  • (6) String Quartets, No. 4 in G, 'La Tiranna', G223
  • String Quartet

Verdi, who always maintained that the proper function of the Italian composer was to write vocal music, produced only one full-scale instrumental work, this string quartet, written in Naples in 1873 while he was waiting for the illness of a singer (Teresa Stolz) to clear up so that rehearsals of Aida could go ahead. If he believed, as he said, that instrumental music should be left to the Germans, he nevertheless showed that he knew as well as anyone how to carry off sonata form or fugue on a large scale, incorporating a thorough working-out of his themes and motifs. Almost too thorough, perhaps, I felt on listening to this rather tense, purposeful performance. Even the graceful Andantino second movement sets a lot of store by it. The overtly operatic Verdi—not that I want to imply an antithesis between the operatic and thematic development, which would certainly be false for Verdi—comes out above all in the Trio of the third movement, where the cello, in its tenor register, sings a broad and alluring melody (set within a 'ballabile' prestissimo). The Nuovo Quartetto, led by Carlo Chiarappa and including Piero Farulli, for 32 years the viola player of the Quartetto Italiano, was (it seems) founded in 1983; they play here with passion and precision, a little less lfexibility than some ensembles might think desirable, but great rhythmic energy and sureness of attack. They finely sustain the long fugal finale.
In the early boccherini quartet published in his 1769 Op. 6 set, Op. 8 in his own catalogue), they are surely too earnest and indeed romantic. One can argue that Boccherini anticipated some aspects of romaticism, but the over-intense and long drawn-out first movement here overstates the argument by far. Nor do they really catch the gait of the minuet that follows, so intent are they on its emotional content (I wonder if they are using a text heavily garnished by an editor), but there is due delicacy in the Trio and crispness and accuracy, if not much humour, in the finale. They find a proper tone of tendresse for the first movement of the charming La Tiranna Quartet of Boccherini's Op. 44, and play its minuet-finale with pose and (in the minor-key Trio) a hint of nostalgia as well as warmth. Altogether, a most impressive debut disc from this new quartet, recorded with great clarity and immediacy.'

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