Several years ago Naxos began recording the complete Boccherini cello concertos - there are twelve of them - with Tim Hugh as the soloist. For some reason, this third and final issue containing Concerti 9-12 features, rather than Hugh, the eminent British cellist Rafael Wallfisch. If I had to choose, I'd say that Wallfisch does a slightly better job than Hugh, but there's actually little to choose between them. Hugh, principal cellist of the London Symphony Orchestra, although not as well known as Wallfisch, is a fine musician. In the first two volumes the accompanying orchestra was the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Anthony Halstead. Here we have Nicholas Ward conducting the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Again, there is little to choose between these two groups, although the Scottish orchestra may be the slightly more suave ensemble.
Boccherini, of course, was himself a cellist and he wrote scads of music for the instrument - there is also a single Naxos disc of Cello Sonatas played by Christian Benda - and these concerti are entirely pleasant and virtuosic works. The solo writing tends to be primarily in the instrument's tenor range and is often quite florid. As a result the harmonies tend to be rather static and that can become tiring if one listens to all four concerti in succession, but taken one by one they are charming, if rather trivial, works.
My own favorite concerto is the Ninth and particularly its Rondo finale. That's at least partly because its primary theme is one that, although I can't place it, is both extremely catchy and mysteriously familiar. (If anyone reading this review knows where that theme comes from I'd appreciate an e-mail about it. I've wracked my brain and can't come up with the source!) And, by the way, the finale of the Tenth Concerto quotes Mozart's 'Se vuol ballare' in extenso.
These works do not set the world on fire, but they are entirely enjoyable on their own merits.