Boccherini Op. 5 – Robust Works for Pianoforte and Violin

This release has me a little conflicted.

Luigi Boccherini published his Op. 5 pianoforte and violin sonatas in 1768. The works were dedicated to one of the premiere keyboard players of the day, Mme. Brillon de Jouy. She was a champion of the then-new pianoforte, and Boccherini’s sonatas were his first compositions for keyboard.

My conflict? I love Boccherini, but I’m no fan of the early pianoforte. These works were also published in a harpsichord/violin version. But the pianoforte was the instrument the composer had in mind.

Boccherini titled the works “Sei sonate per fortepiano, con accompagnamento di un violino.” In other words, the violin has a secondary role compared to the fortepiano. And that puts the keyboard instrument front and center.

In this recording, that also makes the faults of the pianoforte easy to hear. The action’s noisy, there’s a hollow quality to the sound, and it doesn’t always stay precisely in tune throughout the work.

If you can’t get past those distractions, best to give this release a pass.

But, if you can, there’s something of value in these performances. Boccherini exploited the pianoforte’s ability to play at various dynamic levels and respond to the force of the player’s touch. Pianist Pierre Goy and violinist Liana Mosca deliver animated, expressive performances.

Goy and Mosca seem to have an informal conversation as they hand the melodies back and forth. The violin may be the accompanying instrument but it still has plenty to do.

I still don’t like the sound of the pianoforte. But I understand why it was used. These sonatas show us the skill of the young Boccherini. His keyboard writing gives us a foretaste to the expressive works to come. I wouldn’t have that same insight had I heard the harpsichord version.

Luigi Boccherini: 6 Sonate di Cembalo e Violino Obbligato, Op. 5
Liana Mosca, violin; Pierre Goy, pianoforte
Stradivarius 2 CD Set

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