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Fabio Biondi's elite period-instrument ensemble has chosen a sextet, a quintet, a quartet and a string trio as representatives of Luigi Boccherini's vast output, one that makes even Haydn's prolific creativity look like idleness. With more than 100 quintets and almost that number of quartets to choose from, making an all-Boccherini programme must be a daunting prospect.
The string quintet here is N.91 in C minor, a latish work dating from 1792, while the sextet (N.4), quartet (N.56) and trio (N.22) are all earlier works. It's an odd way to demonstrate Boccherini's development of a post-Haydnesque style (although referred to as "la moglie di Haydn" - Haydn's wife - he liberated the cello from its status as an accompanying instrument). All four works are attractive and the playing is superb

This could be the best disc of Boccherini's chamber music ever recorded. Whereas most ensembles seem to hold to the idea that Boccherini was a more charming but less profound Haydn, Europa Galante plays Boccherini like he's a sophisticated composer who was a moody and mercurial master in his own right. Led by violinist Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante delivers performances of tremendous tonal beauty and revelatory soul. A portion of its success is attributable to the choice of repertoire. Instead of the lighter Boccherini fare, Biondi has picked a String Quintet in C minor, a String Sextet in F minor, and a String Quartet in C minor, and, as dessert, a String Trio in D major. But though the pieces are expressive in themselves, Biondi and his groups' brilliantly played and strongly argued performances make them come vibrantly alive. Captured in richly detailed and astoundingly vivid digital sound, this disc deserves to be heard by anyone who relishes great chamber music and great chamber music performances.

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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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