In the long run, it didn't pay for Luigi Boccherini to leave Italy for Spain. Oh, it worked out well enough when he was alive -- writing for a music-loving and cello-playing king did ensure the composer a steady income -- but after he died, Boccherini all but faded from the memory of man while his contemporary Haydn and his younger associates Mozart and Beethoven were assured of their place in the classical music pantheon. Even today, Boccherini is barely known for less than a handful of works while the vast bulk of his music remains forgotten.
This stylish disc by period instrument Explorations Ensemble of three of his many Quintets for two violins, viola, and two cellos -- he worked for a cello-playing king, remember -- may help remedy this situation. Choosing characteristically warm-hearted works, the Explorations Ensemble lets Boccherini's music sing in full-throated ease, granting his melodies the amiability, his forms the congeniality, his harmonies the tenderness, and his rhythms the sensualness that is their most characteristic tone. Anyone who always wondered what a southern European Haydn would sound like, meet Boccherini. Harmonia Mundi's sound is clear, warm, deep, and rich -- a beaker full, as Shelley would say, of the warm South.