Refined performances that celebrate Boccherini’s Spanish connection
As we have come to expect from the Casals Quartet, these are refined, elegant and admirably precise performances, with beautiful tone a constant joy throughout the wide dynamic range and with playing that brings many exquisite quiet moments. Those who enjoy the tang of period-instrument groups, however, may prefer to trade in some of this refinement for a little unkempt spontaneity.
There are moments, such as the second movement of the E major String Quintet, where joy tends to force tempos forward; the minuet of the G minor String Quartet is a little too jerky for a gracious dance; and I would have welcomed a more mysterious opening to this work’s finale.
The Casals players take a relaxed view of the opening Pastorale of the Guitar Quintet, but the performance takes off by the time of the exuberant final Fandango, a movement that comes complete with castanets. The most irresistible part of the disc comes with the many effects and subtle nuances in the players’ account of the strange C major String Quintet, in which the exiled Boccherini remembers the ‘Night Music of the Streets of Madrid’ in four atmospheric pictures.
The recording engineers have the good fortune of a quartet that creates its own perfect balance and detail of inner voices, with the result that the overall sound is of the highest quality.