Thursday, February 2, 2012

Boccherini, The Guitar Quintets, Zoltan Tokos & Danubius String Quartet

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) late in life rearranged Eight Piano Quintets (piano plus string quartet) for guitar and string quartet. There is much that is memorable and moving about this body of music, known as The Guitar Quintets, but as with the original this is not in any way music for a solo instrument and accompaniment, but rather a five-way ensemble interaction. So a guitar aficionado approaching these works for the first time should understand that the guitar part is coequal with each string part. A ninth quintet substitutes a second cello for the guitar.

This ensemble quality is especially clear in the Naxos 3-CD budget box of the nine works, as performed by guitarist Zoltan Tokos and the Danubius Quartet (Naxos 8.503255). The recordings took place, I would assume, without any close miking, so that you get the natural blend of strings and guitar. That means that the guitar part does not have a prominence that it does in recordings where it is spot miked. Now one also may presume that four strings and guitar in the natural ambient setting Boccherini worked in would blend just as they do on these recordings. The guitar has a supportive role much of the time and becomes a voice texture in the whole sound.

That chamber blend enables the listener to savor the interactive give and take of the music as it presumably was meant to be heard. So take note. This set of recordings does not provide you with bravura guitar music per se. Nonetheless these are highly appealing, spirited works of great inventiveness. Tokos and the Danubius Quartet are in good form and the music soars. You most certainly cannot beat the budget price for this box. And you get the Boccherini in full flower.

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