Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A courageous thing



Luigi Boccherini: String Trios op. 34
Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright
Something curious often happens when a composer removes an instrument from a string quartet. Though the lightening of texture sometimes results in less serious music, serenade-like, often folk-inspired, it's just as likely that a new gravity comes with the more austere form. Villa-Lobos's late String Trio, the ground-breaking Trio by Webern, and the astonishing, concentrated Schoenberg String Trio all come to mind. The best example is Mozart's Divertimento K. 563 of 1788, about which Alfred Einstein said "Each instrument is primus inter pares, every note is significant, every note is a contribution to spiritual and sensuous fulfillment in sound." These six trios for two violins and cello by Luigi Boccherini from 1781 show this same tendency, and it's no coincidence, I think, that they're from the same period as his intimate and deeply religious Stabat Mater for soprano and string quintet, a new recording of which I just reviewed last week. From listening a great deal to these two CDs, I'm inclined to place Boccherini just behind Haydn and Mozart as a composer of chamber music. This is inspired, and inspiring, music. This is not a brand new recording; it was made back in 2010, and was previously released on the Colmna Musica label in 2012. But the remastering by Glossa reveals fresh and lively performances by the original instruments group La Ritirata, who bring out the Spanish flavour of Boccherini's music in an appealing way.

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