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.
From the October 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.