BOCCHERINI: Guitar Quintets, Vol. 3 (Danubius Quartet/ Gyorgy Eder/ Ibolya Toth/ Zoltan Tokos) (Naxos: 8.550731)
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Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)
Guitar Quintets Vol. 3
The Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743,the son of a double-bass player. His family was distinguished not only in music,but boasted poets and dancers among its members. His eider brother GiovanGastone, born in 1742, was both dancer and poet, the authorof the text ofHaydn's Il ritorno di Tobia and the libretti of some earlier stage-worksof the Vienna Court Composer, Antonio Salieri. His sister Maria Ester was adancer and married Onorato Vigano, a distinguished dancer and choreographer. Herson, Salvatore Vigano, who studied composition with Boccherini, occupies aposition of considerable importance in the history of ballet.
Boccherini was giving concerts as a cellist by the age of thirteen, and in1757 went with his father to Vienna, where they were both invited to join theorchestra of the court theatre. Boccherini returned to Italy, but there werefurther visits to Vienna, before he finally secured a position in his nativetown. In 1766, however, he set out with his fellow-townsman, the violinistManfredi, a pupil of Nardini, for Paris, having performed with both violinistsand with Cambini in chamber music in Milan the previous year.
In France Boccherini and Manfredi won considerable success, and the formercontinued his work as a composer, as well as appearing as a cello virtuoso. In1768 the pair left for Spain, where Boccherini seems to have lived until hisdeath in 1805. In Madrid he was appointed composer and virtuoso de camera to theInfante Don Luis, younger brother of King Charles III. Part of the followingperiod he spent in Madrid and part at the Palace of Las Arenas in the provinceof Avila, where the Infante retired after an unacceptable marriage. Members ofthe Font family were employed by Don Luis as a string quartet and renewed theirassociation with Boccherini at the end of the century. After the death of theInfante in 1785 the composer entered the service of the Benavente-Osuna family.
At the same time he was appointed court composer to Friedrich Wilhelm, who in1787 became King of Prussia, providing the cello-playing king with newcompositions on the same kind of exclusive arrangement that he had earlierenjoyed with Don Luis. There is, however, no evidence that Boccherini ever spentany time in Prussia. After the death of Friedrich Wilhelm and the departure ofother patrons from Madrid, Boccherini received support from Lucien Bonaparte,French ambassador in Madrid, and remained busy to the end of his life, althoughvisitors reported that he lived in all the appearance of poverty.
Boccherini's style is completely characteristic of the period in which helived, the period, that is, of Haydn rather than that of Mozart or Beethoven. Heenjoyed a reputation for his facility as a composer, leaving some 467compositions. A great deal of his music is designed to exploit the technicalresources of the cello, in concertos, sonatas, and, particularly, in chambermusic for various numbers of instruments, including a remarkable series ofquintets with two cellos. The twelve quintets for guitar and string quartet, ofwhich eight have survived, are arrangements by the composer of works written forpianoforte quintet in the late 1790s, sometimes drawing on earlier stringquintets. La ritirata di Madrid, so called from its last movement set oftwelve variations on the theme of that name, was written in 1798, basedprincipally on the Piano Quintet G. 409. The Guitar Quintet in Eminor, G. 451, has its origin in a: piano quintet dated 1797 in thecomposer's autograph catalogue.
By far the best known today of all Boccherini's compositions must be theMinuet of his String Quintet in E major, G. 275, dated 1771 in thecomposer's catalogue and first published in 1775 as part of a set of six stringquintets, scored, as are 118 of the 184 he w rote, for two violins, viola andtwo cellos. As so often the quintet opens with a gentle Amoroso movement,followed by a more energetic Allegro con spirito, fertile in invention. TheMinuet, an embodiment of the rococo that won its present popularity only towardsthe end of the nineteenth century, is followed by a final rondo.
The Hungarian guitarist Zoltan Tokos was born in Kolozsvar, where he beganhis musical studies, continued subsequently at the Budapest Music Academy underSzendrey Karper Laszlo, in Athens and in master classes with John WilliamSandwith Leo Brouwer. Since 1976 he has been a member of the teaching staff ofthe Liszt Music Academy in Debrecen. As a performer he has given concertsthroughout Europe and his recordings include the Joaquin Rodrigo Concierto deAranjuez with the Budapest Strings. His guitar transcriptions have beenpublished by Editio Musica Budapest, Schott, Universal and Salabert.
Danubius String Quartet
The Danubius String Quartet has won considerable acclaim since itsestablishment in 1983. With the violinists Maria Zs. Szabo and Adel Miklos,violist Cecilia Bodolai and cellist Ilona Ribli, and the artistic direction ofthe distinguished violinist Vilmos Tatrai, the quartet won awards at Trapani,Evian and Graz in the earlier years of its foundation, and has recorded, amongother works, the String Quartet No.1 of Remenyi for Hungaroton, thecomplete String Quartets of Villa- Lobos for Marco Polo and for Naxos the Mozartand Brahms Clarinet Quintets. The Danubius String Quartet has givenrecitals in Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy, France and Switzerland andappeared at a number of international festivals.