Italian composer Boccherini spent two periods rather hidden away in service in Spain, as Domenico Scarlatti had done earlier. Therefore he was removed from the mainstream of concert music activity in Paris and Vienna and developed in his own unique way, just as Scarlatti had. Very few others were writing works for the piano quintet, which gave a larger and more voluminous sound, especially with the recently-popular fortepiano instead of harpsichord. Also like Scarlatti, Boccherini included some elements of Iberian folk music in his compositions, even to castanets in one quintet (although not to the very strong flamenco influence in many of Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas).
Each of the sets of six quintets has four movements, with the outer ones fast and one of the middle movements usually slow. They abound in great melodies and have a generally lighthearted feeling about them. The first set did so well for Boccherini that he created exactly the same group of six quintets for the same combination of instruments the next year, with the next consecutive opus number. If some of them sound oddly familiar to you, it would be because they have been more frequently heard in their transcriptions for guitar and string quartet. For example, Quintetto VI in C from Op. 57 has the well-known “Night in Madrid” movement. The Ensemble Claviere is a recently-founded Italian original instrument ensemble, and they use a fortepiano constructed in 1805. Sonics are somewhat thin-sounding but with a little tone adjustment are useable, and the bargain-counter price can’t be beat.
– John Sunier