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The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Supremely lovely and deeply beautiful, the performances on this two-disc set devoted to the music of Luigi Boccherini are compelling proof that the Italian-Spanish composer was more than a Rococo bantam weight. Beyond his well-known Minuet, Fandango, and "La Ritirada di Madrid" and his enormous number of cheerful cello concertos and sonatas written for the cello-playing Spanish king, Boccherini was also a composer of quartets, quintets, symphonies, and sacred works that rival those of his contemporary Haydn. This coupling of four symphonies, a string quintet, and the Stabat Mater by the Ensemble 415 led from the violin by Chiara Banchini is a wonderful introduction to Boccherini's art. In the three-movement symphonies, Banchini leads strong but sensitive performances that bring out the music's lyrical themes, subtle colors, and elegant shapes. With sweet-voiced soprano Agnés Mellon, Banchini finds within a strict sequence of recitatives and arias the sorrow, pity, and unshakable faith in the Stabat Mater. But perhaps best of all is the Quintet in C minor, Op. 31/4. The immensity of its grief, the austerity of its themes, and the intensity of expression is musically and emotionally overwhelming. Recorded in 1988 and 1991 in Harmonia Mundi's clearest, coolest sound, this two-disc set should be heard by anyone with an interest in music in the second half of the eighteenth century.