BOCCHERINI: Sei sonate di cembalo e violino obbligato, Op. 5 – Jacques Ogg, harpsichord / Emilio Moreno, violin – Glossa GCD C80306, 76:50 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Boccherini’s set of Six Sonatas for Keyboard and Violin Obbligato was written in Paris in 1768, where the peripatetic young composer lived for a while before eventually landing in Madrid, from whence issued most of his best-known music. As the Opus 5 designation suggests, the 25-year-old Boccherini had already penned a number of compositions, including string quartets, trios, a symphony, and large-scale choral works. In Paris he benefitted from the patronage of several nobles, one of them being Anne Brillon de Jouy, one of the preeminent keyboard players of her day. It was for this worthy that Boccherini wrote his six sonatas.
Mme. Brillon de Jouy was proficient on both fortepiano and harpsichord, and Boccherini originally scored the sonatas for that instrument with violin obbligato. However, when the works were published in 1769, they came out in an edition for harpsichord and violin. According to the notes written by violinist Emilio Moreno, he and keyboardist Jacques Ogg chose this later version because it had fewer interpretive cues for dynamics and the like than are found in the original manuscript version, and being independent types, the duo wanted to interpret according to their own lights as much as possible. An interesting but somewhat contrarian idea, given modern players’ desire to get back to the urtext whenever practicable. Another reason the pair chose the published version, however, is the existence of a respected (at least by them) recording of the original for fortepiano and violin by Enrico Gatti and Franco Angeleri. I haven’t been able to sample this Tactus recording, but be advised the same performances are available on a two-CD set from Brilliant, together with six sonatas for keyboard, violin, and cello.
Anyway, back to the recording at hand. Since Madrid was something of a musical backwater, while there Boccherini never really abandoned the Rococo roots that are quite apparent in the Op. 5 Sonatas. This is elegant, fluent, very pretty music with expectedly little of the profundity or architectonic rigor that Mozart would bring to the form fifteen or so years later. On the other hand, Mozart’s early sonatas are pretty much in the same vein, and certainly less important musically, than Boccherini’s. Already Boccherini’s canny gift for melody is apparent, and these sonatas seem inexhaustibly melodic. They’re also full of bounding energy in their truly fleet fast movements, which Ogg and Moreno play for all their worth to the point that tempi almost get out of hand in spots. In what may be my favorite, Sonata IV, where the fast movement comes in the middle, I feared a train wreck as Messrs. Ogg and Moreno careered around every curve at breakneck speed. But all came out well. One reason I find this sonata especially attractive is that it has many of the hallmarks of Boccherini’s later music: a lilting, pining Andante first movement and a Rondo finale that dances in almost a fandango rhythm.
If you enjoy music of the Rococo, there is much to enjoy here, including the minor-key Sonata V, where the dramatic alteration of sun and shade seem to show Boccherini’s acquaintance with the emotionally deeper currents of the style galant. In the sure hands of Ogg and Moreno, this music comes to life very convincingly. Theirs are ardent, engaged, loving performances, and the duo receive a very attractive recording—set down in Iglesia de Santa Maria del la Asunción in Sajazzara, Spain—with just the right sense of depth and spaciousness. If you’re going to record in a church, this is the way to go about it. Recommended, certainly.
— Lee Passarella
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 – Eduard van Beinum – Pristine Audio
A historic rendering of Bruckner’s 9th