Generally known as Boccherini’s Op.26, this set of two-movement ‘quartettini’ was first published as Op.32, but confusion has continued down the years, which may be one reason why these delightful works have remained little-known and under-recorded; the only extant version on CD is of arrangements for keyboard and piano quartet, so this set offers a valuable first chance to acquaint oneself with Boccherini’s original scoring.
The composer himself numbered the quartets among his ‘opera piccola’ – small works – but by grouping them in three pairs, it is possible to observe a macro-structure within the whole of Op.26, with a triple alternation of a scheme of fast-(menuet and trio) – slow – (menuet and trio). Certainly Boccherini did not intend the quartets to be taken less seriously than the longer-form quartets: ‘it is all cloth of the same piece,’ he remarked to his publisher, and his palette of sound is no less varied for the size of his chosen canvas, ranging from sweet, cantabile melodies to abrupt introductions and sudden conclusions. Op.26 is full of surprises, sometimes in his use of Spanish folk material, which betrays their origin as music composed for the Infante Don Luis at his court near Madrid. The Infante was the brother of the King of Spain Charles III. Boccherini remained in service of Don Luis as compositore and virtuoso di camera from 1770 to the death of the Infante, in 1785. There is even a fandango to conclude the set, in the finale of G200.
Ensemble Symposium is a historically informed performance ensemble which has already made two warmly received recordings for Brilliant Classics, of Telemann (BC94330) and a lesser-known successor to Boccherini in the Italian school of chamber music, Bartolomeo Campagnoli. This last was rated a ‘CD of the month’ by CDClassico.com.
The first recording for string quartet of the 6 Quartets Op.26 by Boccherini.
Boccherini was in the service of the Infante Don Luis, the brother of King Charles III of Spain. He was required to write 3 sets of 6 pieces every year, a duty which led to the rich and substantial oeuvre of chamber music by the Italian master.
The quartets are small scale, consisting of usually two movements, the first Allegro in sonata form followed by a Menuetto plus Trio. The style, “Classical Pure”, is here and there infused by Spanish elements, such as certain syncopations suggesting Spanish dances, like the Fandango: high class entertainment!
Played in the spirit of Historical Performance Practice by the Italian Ensemble Symposium, whose historical research led to such premieres as the String Quartets by Campagnoli (BC95037) and the Scherzi Melodichi by Telemann (BC94330).