Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805): Guitar Quintets Vol. 1 (G. 450; G. 449; G. 448 "Fandango"). Performed by Richard Savino, guitar, and the Artaria Quartet (Elizabeth Blumenstock, Katherine Kyme, Anthony Martin and Elisabeth Le Guin).
Recorded in October, 1989, by Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, California.
Harmonia Mundi. Originally released as HMU 907026. Re-released in 2001 in the Classical Express series as HCX 3957026. Total time: 56'54".
Luigi Boccherini was, in fact, a cellist, and is today perhaps best remembered for his cello concertos, which, in his day, were considered to be on a par with Haydn. Boccherini was a major figure in the European music scene at the end of the 18th century, and that despite the fact that he spent a great part of his life in provincial Spain, away from the great cultural centers of Europe. His large musical output was by no means limited to cello concertos; he produced symphonies and a great deal of chamber music, especially quartets and quintets. A number of these he re-worked towards the end of his life, adding a guitar and thus giving the pieces a peculiarly Spanish flavor. Elisabeth Le Guin and Richard Savino describe the resulting sound in the CD booklet, and their description is so accurate that I would like to quote it here: "Boccherini creates a handsome blend, using the guitar variously as a sonic underlay, rather like continuo, and as a sweet-voiced soloist. What is most endearing, as always in Boccherini, is his artlessness. Lovely melodies spill forth unhindered ..."
The performance on this CD is as accurate and as charming as the verbal description quoted above. There is no competition here between soloist and string quartet, but rather a delightful harmony that makes for relaxing listening where one can allow oneself the luxury of following now one instrument, then another, the guitar being all the while present but never dominant. This is made a further pleasure by the pleasant acoustics and the wonderful engineering. Full marks! After hearing this, I soon went on to buy the other two discs in this series, both equally enjoyable.