( b Lucca, 19 Feb 1743; d Madrid, 28 May 1805 ). Italian composer and cellist. A prolific composer, particularly of chamber music, with a distinctive and highly wrought style, he is the chief representative of Latin instrumental music during the Viennese Classical period.
Luigi Boccherini (his first baptismal name seems never to have been used), was the third child of the musician Leopoldo Boccherini (1712–66) and his wife Maria Santa, née Prosperi (d Aranjuez, 1776). Leopoldo's activities as a singer, and from 1747 as a second double bass player (contrabassista soprannumerario) in the Cappella Palatina, allowed the family only a modest standard of living in their home town of Lucca. Thanks to intensive parental encouragement, the Boccherini children developed their considerable artistic talents early: Luigi's elder brother Giovanni Gastone (1742–c1800) began a career as a ballet dancer in 1756 (Grossato, 1993, pp.137–8), appearing in Venice, Trieste, Vienna, Rome and elsewhere, and from 1773 was ‘dramatic poet’ (Theatraldichter) at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where he worked with Calzabigi and made a name as librettist for comic operas (including works by Antonio Salieri and Florian Gassmann) and for Joseph Haydn's oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia of 1775. Luigi's elder sister Maria Ester (1740–c1800) became a popular and successful solo dancer while she was still very young at the Burgtheater, where she worked with Gluck. The records also mention her appearances as a prima ballerina in Bologna, Venice and Florence between 1763 and 1777; Salvatore Viganò was the son of her marriage to the dancer and choreographer Onorato Viganò. Luigi's sister Anna Matilde (b 1744) was a ballet dancer in Vienna and his sister Riccarda (b 1747) an opera singer, appearing in Florence in 1777.
Luigi Boccherini probably had his first musical education from his father, as was usual in musicians' families. He attended the archiepiscopal Seminario di S Martino in Lucca as a day pupil from about 1751 to 1753 and received a comprehensive musical training from the maestro di cappella and cellist Domenico Francesco Vannucci, including tuition in singing and cello playing. There is evidence that he sang as a choirboy in Luccan churches and at the Teatro Pubblico in 1753. That autumn he went to study in Rome, where G.B. Costanzi, nicknamed ‘Giovannino del Violoncello’, is said to have been his teacher (Bonaventura, 1931). It is not known exactly how long he remained there, but he was back in Lucca by the summer of 1756, making his début on 4 August 1756 with a cello concerto. Through the sympathetic support of Giacomo Puccini, maestro di cappella of the Cappella Palatina and organist at S Martino, he made a number of further appearances on local occasions involving sacred music and at other festivities. Judging by the fees he commanded, the young Boccherini must already have been regarded as one of the city's outstanding musicians.
In 1757 Boccherini may have accompanied his father and his elder siblings at engagements in Venice and Trieste. In any case, he made a very successful appearance with his father in Vienna in the spring of 1758 as a soloist in the Musikalische Fasten-Accademien at the Burgtheater. Subsequently, they were both engaged as musici in the imperial capital from Easter until the autumn, playing in the orchestra of the German theatre of the imperial court theatre, the Kärntnertortheater, directed by Count Giacomo Durazzo. Most of the music Boccherini played there was ballet music, by Starzer, Gassmann and Gluck. Father and son returned to Vienna for further engagements in the same capacity in 1760–61 and 1763–4, on each occasion for a full theatrical year beginning after Easter. In Vienna, Boccherini encountered strong competition as a soloist; the known sources indicate that he did not appear at the academies of the imperial court as often as other cellists in the city, and there is documentary evidence only for two solo concerts given by him in Vienna in 1763. The sources provide only fragmentary information about Boccherini's other movements between the end of 1758 and 1764. He gave several concerts in Lucca; on 19 March 1761, in Florence, the ‘celebre suonatore di Violoncello’ earned much applause for a concert of music by himself, its mode of composition being described by the diarist who mentions it as being ‘of a completely new kind’ (‘d'un maniera dell tutto nuova’, I-Fas, Ospizio dei Melani Ms.34, p.230); and he appeared in Modena on 7 January 1762. No programmes for his solo concerts are known. Neither Vienna nor the Italian cities could offer a cello virtuoso of the time the means to make a living purely as a soloist. During a period of intensive creativity in 1760 and 1761, Boccherini wrote his first significant compositions, 18 in all: the trios op.1, the quartets op.2 and the duets op.3, all for strings (the opus numbers cited in this discussion are those from Boccherini's own catalogue, which often differ from the published opus numbers; see §5 below). In April 1764 an application Boccherini had made in 1760 for a post as cellist in the Cappella Palatina of Lucca was finally granted. A commission to compose a cantata for the local election festivities (Tasche) in December 1765 in Lucca, shows that he was by then recognized as a composer. In July 1765 he met G.B. Sammartini at festival concerts in Pavia and Cremona, where he and his father were making a well-paid appearance before Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In April 1766 he applied for an orchestral position at the Teatro Alibert in Rome, where he gave a solo performance, but it seems that he was unsuccessful. The story of Boccherini's membership for six months of a string quartet, with the violinists Filippo Manfredi and Pietro Nardini, and Giuseppe Cambini as the viola player (recounted by Cambini in his Nouvelle méthode of c1795 and in AMZ, vi, 1803–4, cols.781–3), may relate to this period, although their alleged study of Haydn's early quartets as well as Boccherini's own does not seem plausible at this date. Soon after the death of his father in August 1766 Boccherini and his friend Manfredi, primo violino of the Cappella Palatina, went to Genoa, where they enjoyed the patronage of the nobility. Boccherini wrote at least one of his two oratorios for the oratorian congregation in that city. In September 1767 they left Genoa together, intending to travel to London; the records show that they were in Nice on 5 October.
The next stop on their tour was Paris, where Boccherini and Manfredi stayed for six months at the most. There Boccherini came under the patronage of the influential Baron de Bagge (Charles-Ernest Ennal). Boccherini was not an unknown when he arrived, for in April 1767 Jean Baptiste Venier had published his first six string quartets there as op.2, and in July Bailleux issued his first six trios for two violins and cello as op.1; the Mercure de France (April 1768) described these works as ‘very effective’. Paris was the main place of publication for Boccherini's works throughout his lifetime, although the only work published under his own supervision was the series of six trios op.4, g83–8, issued by Venier in March 1768. However, the most important product of his visit to Paris was the set of six sonatas for keyboard with violin accompaniment op.5, which Boccherini dedicated to the amateur keyboard player Anne Louise Boyvin d’Hardancourt Brillon de Jouy, and which was distributed in numerous copies and editions into the 19th century. Boccherini performed at private concerts in the salons of Baron de Bagge, Mme Brillon de Jouy and no doubt other figures of Parisian society. His only recorded public appearance in Paris was at the Concert Spirituel on 20 March 1768, when Manfredi played a violin concerto of his own composition and Boccherini performed one of his own cello sonatas. The Mercure de France praised Boccherini's performance but the Mémoires secrets of Louis-Petit Bachaumont speak of his harsh playing and a lack of harmonious chords (Rothschild, 1962, p.33). After a second appearance by Manfredi on 4 April, the two men left the French capital, but in a change to their original plan they went not to London but to Madrid, having been promised posts there by the Spanish ambassador. By spring 1768 they were playing in the orchestra of an Italian opera company in Aranjuez. The sources mention a performance of Gian Francesco de Majo's Almeria to which Boccherini contributed an interlude aria with cello solo. The ‘Compagnia dell'opera Italiana dei Sitios Reales’ enjoyed the patronage of Crown Prince Carlos, Prince of the Asturias, to whom Boccherini's six trios op.6 of 1769 are dedicated. The company performed in the newly equipped theatres of the royal residences at Aranjuez and La Granja of S Ildefonso, where the Spanish court regularly stayed in spring and summer. There must also have been performances at the Escorial and perhaps at the hunting lodge of El Pardo. The company's base was the castle of Boadillo del Monte near Madrid, the principal home of the Infante Luis Antonio Jaime of Bourbon, younger brother of King Carlos III. Boccherini seems to have been a member of the opera company until 1770, and Manfredi was its first violinist until 1772. In the autumn of 1768 Boccherini was with the company when it visited Valencia, and ate there with Giacomo Casanova, who described him as ‘célèbre’ (The Story of my Life, xi, chapter 4). The orchestra performed Boccherini's first sinfonia concertante (g491) in the ‘academies’ of July 1769 at the Teatro del los Caños del Peral in Madrid, probably with the composer playing the solo cello part in the second movement, and Niccolò Piccinni's La buona figliuola was given in Aranjuez in the spring of 1769 with Boccherini's overture g527, based on the Symphony g490. Boccherini must also have played at many private concerts in the houses of the nobility in Madrid and the Sitios, as the dedication of his series of quartets op.9 (1770) ‘alli Signori Diletanti di Madrid’ indicates. About 1770 he married Clementina Pellicia, second soprano in the opera company; of the six children of this marriage only Boccherini's two sons Luis Marcos and Jose Mariano survived him.
On 8 November 1770 Boccherini entered the service of Don Luis in Aranjuez as compositore e virtuoso di camera at a salary of 14,000 reals (raised to 18,000 in 1772). He had dedicated his quartets op.8 to Don Luis a year before. This relatively well-paid position led to a marked increase in Boccherini's activity as a composer, and he immediately extended the range of genres in which he worked with his quintets and sextets for strings and flute or oboe (the sextets op.16 and ‘quintettini’ op.17, 1773), his series of six symphonies op.12 (1771), and above all his first two series of string quintets, each containing six works, opp.10 and 11 (1771). The string quintet formation with two cellos that Boccherini created seems to have resulted from the fact that Don Luis had a string quartet which with Boccherini himself could become a quintet. During these years most of his compositions were very soon published, the majority of them in Paris. According to a later statement by Boccherini, his annual quota of music written for Don Luis was to comprise three opere, each of six compositions. On Don Luis's morganatic marriage in 1776 he moved his residence first to Velada near Talavera, in 1777 to Cadalso de los Vidrios, and at the end of 1777 to Las Arenas de San Pedro in the Sierra de Gredos, taking Boccherini with him. Don Luis's staff now also included Boccherini's brother Giovanni Gastone.
From the seclusion of Las Arenas, Boccherini made energetic efforts to resume contact with the musical world. He set up a business relationship with the publishing firm of Artaria in Vienna in 1780, and in 1781 entered into a short correspondence about the firm with Joseph Haydn, whom he greatly admired. In 1783, through the Prussian envoy at the Madrid court, he sent compositions written in his own hand to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, an enthusiastic cellist. The prince immediately wrote a personal letter back expressing his lively interest in new works, which Boccherini satisfied by sending some of his earlier compositions to Berlin; however, his conditions of service with Don Luis stipulated that he was not to compose for any other patron at the same time. Perhaps to ensure that he remained in Madrid rather than going to Berlin, Don Luis improved these conditions: under his renewed contract of 17 August 1784, Boccherini received a additional 12,000 reals for the compositions he was to write. If the dates in Boccherini's own catalogue of his works and on the surviving musical manuscripts are correct, his creative production at this period was already considerably reduced. Apart from the six string quintets op.36 of 1784, he apparently wrote no new chamber music for the four years from 1782, and for the three years 1783–5 the only other work mentioned in the records is the villancico g539, a Christmas cantata.
Boccherini's wife and his patron Don Luis both died in 1785. At his petition, King Carlos III granted him an annual pension of 12,000 reals, and he was promised the next place to fall vacant in the Real Capilla. The entry into the Real Capilla in 1787 of another cellist, Francesco Brunetti, then only just 20 years old, may be the origin of the legend that jealous rivalry existed between Boccherini and Francesco Brunetti's father Gaetano, a violinist of high standing in the Real Capilla and music master to the Prince of the Asturias. At the end of 1785 or early in 1786 Boccherini returned to Madrid and was nominally appointed a member of the Real Capilla (músico agregado a la Real Capilla).
On 21 January 1786 Boccherini was appointed ‘compositeur de notre chambre’ to Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, who was crowned king as Friedrich Wilhelm II in the same year (Rothschild, 1962, p.59). The post carried an annual salary of 1000 talers. Subsequently Boccherini sent his new patron in Prussia 12 instrumental works a year, almost without a break, most of them string quartets and quintets. The only gap in this regular production of works was in 1791; possibly the 12 concert arias g544–55 were composed that year. It now seems unlikely that Boccherini himself ever went to Prussia as earlier biographers assumed (solely on the evidence of a letter of doubtful authenticity from Breslau). More probably, he continued living in Las Arenas near Madrid for the rest of his life. From March 1786 onwards he was also engaged in Madrid at a salary of 1000 reals a month as director de orquesta y compositor by María Josefa Alfonsa Pimentel, Duchess-Countess of Benavente and Duchess of Osuna, a notable patron of music. It is not known whether this appointment continued after the ten months mentioned in the documents, and if so for how long. According to the account of his travels (1834) by the English writer William Beckford, Boccherini was still in the duchess's service at the end of 1787. His music was evidently highly esteemed by the Benavente-Osuna family, for its music library contained a large number of his works from 1761 to 1787 (111 items, including compositions dedicated to the duchess from 1782, 1786 and 1787), and his opera or zarzuela La Clementina was performed at the duchess's palace in Madrid in 1786 (the only other recorded performance was in Valencia in 1796). Beckford tells an amusing story about Boccherini's feeling for dance and sense of musical decorum at a ball given in the Madrid palace of a rich member of the Pacheco family in December 1787. In the same year Boccherini married María del Pilar Joaquina Porretti, daughter of a former first cellist of the Real Capilla who had died four years earlier and who had been admired by Farinelli.
Carlos III died in 1788 and was succeeded by his son Carlos IV, the former Prince of the Asturias. The music-loving monarch, who played the violin himself, established both a chamber music ensemble (músicos de la real cámera, with Gaetano and Francesco Brunetti) and in 1795 the royal chamber orchestra. Boccherini was not a member of either group, but according to tradition he was recruited by the king to perform with him in quartets and symphonies, and suffered from his ‘ear-splitting’ playing (letter, François de Fossa to Louis Picquot, 8 August 1847; see Ophee, 1981). There was still great interest in Boccherini's music in Paris; around 1790–91 he had a private patron there, a man called Boulogne who perished in the chaotic aftermath of the French Revolution (possibly the taffeta manufacturer Jacques-Laurent Boulogne, 1753–94). Boccherini's chamber music was performed at concerts in his house, with Viotti as first violin, as Boccherini wrote to Pleyel on 4 January 1798. According to Boccherini, Boulogne's music library contained transcripts of 110 of his works. Friedrich Wilhelm II owned copies of the same works, also purely for private use.
Boccherini's last nine years were troubled by illness and misfortune. His unmarried daughter Joaquina died in 1796 at the age of about 25. In the same year Boccherini accepted an offer from the Parisian publisher Ignace Pleyel, and after brief negotiations sold him 58 works (opp.44 to 54) for 7200 reals. Immediately afterwards, negotiations began for the sale of 110 other works written earlier, and an unhappy chapter in Boccherini's life began. Friedrich Wilhelm II died unexpectedly in 1797. Boccherini petitioned his successor for employment, but on 2 March 1798 the new king refused his application, and declined to grant him a pension. He finally sold the 110 works mentioned above to Pleyel for 9600 reals (letter to Pleyel, 24 December 1798). It was understandable that Pleyel at first hesitated over the purchase, since a number of these works had already been distributed for years by other publishers. However, the letters to Pleyel (reproduced in an appendix to Della Croce, 1988) suggest that Boccherini's generous and honourable behaviour was often answered by suspicion, discourtesy and procrastination; though it is also clear that Pleyel's letters (which do not survive) contained praise of Boccherini's music. Pleyel also dedicated three of his own string quartets (b365–7) to Boccherini in 1803. In any event, in 1798 and 1799, and at longer intervals thereafter, Pleyel's published collections meant the concentrated distribution of works by Boccherini, some of which had lain unknown for as long as 12 years. Pleyel took considerable liberties in his choice of works and the order in which he printed them, thus contributing a good deal to the confusion surrounding the opus numbering of Boccherini's printed compositions. Boccherini's next publisher was Sieber in Paris.
The patronage of the house of Benavente-Osuna came to an end, at the latest, when the duke and duchess moved to Paris in 1799. In 1798–9 Boccherini wrote a dozen arrangements of his own works for guitar, two violins, viola and cello for François de Borgia, Marquis of Benavente (not a member of the same dynasty). At this time he was turning increasingly to vocal music: he wrote the Scena dell'Ines di Castro for the stage by April 1798, and a second opera, Dorval e Virginia, which was performed during the carnival season of 1799–1800 in Turin but is now lost. Of his sacred works, he wrote a Mass (now lost) and a second version of his Stabat mater in 1800, and the Christmas cantata op.63 (now lost) in 1802. In 1799, flattered by reports of the popularity of his works in Paris and hoping for new patronage, Boccherini composed the six piano quintets op.57 with a dedication to the French nation. The invitation to him to become a member of the administrative council of the Paris Conservatoire may have been a response to this dedication; however, Boccherini's great-grandson Alfredo Boccherini said in his biography of the composer that Boccherini declined the post. He finally found a new patron in November 1800 in the person of Lucien Bonaparte, French ambassador in Madrid. Boccherini organized musical performances for him, and continued writing works dedicated to him even after Bonaparte was recalled from Spain in December 1801. On 20 January 1802 Joseph Bonaparte granted Boccherini a pension of 3000 francs a year. Nothing is known about Boccherini's connection with Tsar Aleksandr I of Russia apart from the dedication to him of the Christmas cantata op.63. The composer's grief at the deaths of his two daughters Mariana (b 1782) and Ysabel in 1802, and then of his fourth daughter Maria Teresa and his second wife two years later, must have hastened his death. In the late 1790s he had a friendly paternal relationship with the singer Pierre Garat and the violinist Pierre Rode, whom he is said to have helped with the orchestration of a concerto. He taught the young violinist Alexandre-Jean Boucher how to interpret his works, but there is no evidence that he regularly taught either the cello or composition. Unfortunately, he never wrote a treatise describing what must have been his outstanding cello technique. Musicians of note visited Boccherini in Madrid, including the cellist B.H. Romberg in 1801 and the singer and pianist Sophie Gail in 1803; she found him living in a state of exhaustion in a small apartment consisting of a single room with a gallery (at Calle de Jesus y Maria 5, near the Plaza Tirso de Molina).
Towards the end of his life Boccherini's financial circumstances were modest and his health poor. He seems to have given up composition in 1804, with his unfinished String Quartet op.64 no.2. He died of peritoneal tuberculosis in 1805 and was buried in the church of S Justo y Pastor in Madrid. In 1927 his remains were taken to Lucca and re-buried in the basilica of S Francesco. A second exhumation in 1995 showed that Boccherini was about 1·65 metres tall and of slight build; the middle finger of his left hand was chronically inflamed, from playing the cello, and he suffered from epicondylitis of the left arm and elbow and arthrosis of the cervical vertebrae. An inventory of his possessions in his own hand, drawn up in 1787, indicates that he owned two Stradivari cellos.
The manuscripts Boccherini left on his death, about half of them music manuscripts, were kept by his family in good order, in ten fascicles, until they were burnt in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–9. Along with many musical autographs and transcripts of letters, the catalogue of Boccherini's works he himself had kept from 1760 onwards was lost. Fortunately it had been published in 1851, edited by Louis Picquot, who conducted a correspondence with Boccherini's grandson Fernando in 1848; Alfredo Boccherini, a son of Fernando, published another edition in 1879. According to Alfredo, Boccherini's own catalogue was not complete: he excluded all his vocal works up to 1799, certain orchestral works, his arrangements, and all his solo sonatas and concertos. There is reason to think that several other items which he omitted to record may be authentic; the catalogue may reflect a system distinguishing between music composed for a particular performance, particularly by himself (excluded from the catalogue), and music written for publication (included).
Five further catalogues of works with incipits in Boccherini's own hand are also preserved; he drew them up during his negotiations with Pleyel in 1796–7: (1) 1796: Nota delle opere non date ancora a Nessuno, 58 works, published by Bonaventura (Rome, 1931) (Sotheby's catalogue 1985); (2) 1796: Catalogo delle opere da me Luigi Boccherini cedute in tutta Proprieta al Sigr. Ignazio Pleyel (GB-Lbl); (3) 1797: Nota della musica mandata a Parigi l'anno 1790 o 1791 (F-Pn); (4) 1797: piano quintets op.56 (F-Prothschild); and (5) 1797: string quintets opp.40–43, with autograph note, In tutto 26. Pezze, che unite alle 84. dell'altro Catalogo formano pezze = 110 = (US-NYpm). Questions of authenticity and bibliographical matters are examined in Gérard's thematic catalogue (1969).
In his own catalogue, Boccherini adopted a conventional numbering system in which (with a few exceptions) six works of like kind were assigned to each opus. Each opus was ‘grande’ or ‘piccola’ according to whether the works were full-length (usually four movements) or short (usually two movements, sometimes called ‘quartettinos’ or ‘quintettinos’). Unfortunately, Boccherini's publishers used totally different numbering systems; and in some cases his publishers, notably Pleyel, confusingly regrouped his sets and later publishers used new numberings of their own, so that some works can be found under three or more numbers; and occasionally (as in the Berlin manuscripts) yet further opus numbers are appended to manuscript copies. In the discussion below Boccherini's opus numbers are preferred to Gérard numbers where their use clarifies the chronology.
A considerable part of the music preserved in autograph form derives from the extensive collection of L. Picquot, a tax collector who was a major biographer of Boccherini. On his death, a small part of this collection passed into the possession of the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra in Paris, while the larger part of it (617 works, either printed or autographs) was sold at auction in Berlin in 1904 and 1922 (Ophee, 1981). The works written for Friedrich Wilhelm II are in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
3. Vocal and orchestral music.
The circumstances of Boccherini's life dictated that his main occupation would be the composition of chamber music; and it is clear that his gifts lay in the same direction. His music shows a constant concern with detail rather than with broad effect. His vocal works, including two operas, two oratorios, three cantatas and more than a dozen concert arias, are essentially marginal to his output; though the Stabat mater of 1781, revised in 1800 from a soprano solo setting to one for three voices, is by no means untypical with its intimate mood, its sighing appoggiaturas, and the warmth and graceful pathos of the F minor trio movements which flank the 1800 version. Such features may also be seen as in a clear line of descent from Pergolesi's Stabat mater.
His orchestral output is more important. Boccherini wrote several cello concertos. A group of four published in Paris (g477, 479–81; 1770–71) are straightforward works retaining many vestiges of late Baroque concerto form but not specially characteristic except in occasional melodic patterns. A concerto published about 1782 (g483), more elaborately orchestrated and less conservative in its treatment, is of greater interest. The best-known Boccherini cello concerto is one in B?, familiar in the regrettable arrangement published by Friedrich Grützmacher in 1895: its outer movements are a conflation of a sonata (g565) and a concerto (g482), with Grützmacher's own glosses to the harmony, orchestration and solo figuration, and for its slow movement he chose the poetic Adagio of g480, the outstanding movement among the four Paris concertos. In all the authentic cello works Boccherini made extensive technical demands, using the tenor register frequently, with passage-work in high thumb positions, as well as rapid bowing across the strings and long passages in multiple stopping. The violin concerto g486, on which Mozart's k218 was long thought to have been modelled, shows no sign of being authentic and is probably a forgery by Henry Casadesus (see Lebermann, Acta mozartiana, 1967).
Boccherini composed at least 27 symphonies. His essentially lyrical gift and his feeling for melodic detail found less scope here than in chamber music; often a true sense of symphonic momentum is lacking. Yet his symphonies do not lack variety of expression. Several are in a conventionally festive and brilliant D major, including the first of the op.12 set, with bustling if inconsequential passage-work, and his last in that key, op.43, in Italian overture form, marred however by an excessive symmetry of phrase-structure. That Boccherini could construct a symphonic movement cogently is shown by (for example) the Symphony in F op.35 no.4, with its economically argued first movement, characteristically built on a brief, much repeated rhythmic figure. Boccherini's several minor-key symphonies are among his most interesting. They include one in C minor, op.41, with a Pastorale slow movement in a pathetic vein and a tarantella-like finale of considerable power; still more noteworthy is the use of material from the first movement in the Pastorale and particularly the minuet. Such essays at cyclic form are discussed below; one example occurs in the D minor symphony from op.12, where the same slow introduction is used for the first movement and the third (which is a parody of a movement from Gluck's ballet Don Juan, familiar as the ‘Air de furies’ in Orphée). Another D minor movement of particular individuality is the first of op.37 no.3, where D minor and major alternate, as do pp and ff, and where hints of contrapuntal treatment are set against explosive tuttis.
4. Chamber music.
Boccherini was a prolific composer of chamber music: he composed well over 100 string quintets, nearly 100 string quartets and over 100 other chamber works. His style became increasingly personal and even idiosyncratic over the 44 years in which he composed, to such an extent that in his late music he sometimes seems to be repeating himself (even if more subtly). The earliest trios and quartets (he was not called upon to use the rare quintet form until he settled in Spain) are in a standard Italian chamber music idiom, apart from their frequent use of the cello in its tenor register (natural in a virtuoso cellist) and an unusually ornate melodic style. Other features of rhythm and texture later to become significant characteristics are seen only in embryo. Early influences on Boccherini's style are hard to specify. He must have been acquainted with works by such Italian composers as G.B. Sammartini and Nardini; in Vienna he must have encountered the music of men like Wagenseil and M.G. Monn; in Paris he must have heard music by the Mannheim composers as well as such local men as Gossec and Schobert. But it would be hard to pinpoint the influence of such men on Boccherini's music, his chamber music in particular. By the works of 1769–70 his technique was fully assured; his style thereafter changed only gradually, gaining in freedom and unorthodoxy to a point where his latest works (from 1790 onwards) show little regard for conventions of form or tonal schemes. Some of the works of these late years suggest a growing inwardness of style, a leisureliness, a preoccupation with delicate effects of harmony, texture or rhythmic figuration at the expense of melody or formal integrity; and it is natural to think that Boccherini's isolation from the main musical cross-currents of Europe may be responsible. No doubt this increasing inwardness of style was in Fétis's mind when he suggested that a listener to a Boccherini work might imagine him to have known no music but his own (Fétis, 1829, p.536). There are features of his later music which might be regarded as Spanish, in particular the tendency to expand by direct repetition and the use of repeated syncopated notes and certain rhythmic tags characteristic of Spanish dances; though much of repetition and syncopation can be found in his earlier music too.
These syncopated rhythms, however, are an important mark of his style. Often they appear in an inner part, to maintain the vitality of an accompaniment or simply to enliven a texture; frequently they impart nervous energy to a melody or special emphasis to a cadence. They are closely allied to Boccherini's highly individual manner of phrasing, with slurs from a weak beat to a strong (ex.1), which by depriving a line of direct accentuation lends a certain softness and suavity to its melodic contours. This was undoubtedly the kind of effect Boccherini aimed at; the directions ‘soave’, ‘con grazia’ and ‘dolce’ or ‘dolcissimo’ are among the commonest in his music. Boccherini's performing instructions are often specific and individual: he sometimes coupled terms like ‘lentarello’, ‘malincolico’, ‘smorfioso’ and ‘con imperio’ with tempo directions. It is perhaps the pervading charm, gentleness or even effeminacy of his music, as well as its lack of firm direction, that drew from the violinist Giuseppe Puppo the well-known remark about Boccherini's being ‘Haydn's wife’. Often, however, particularly in his later music, this gentleness is contradicted by brief, explosive fortissimo passages (usually of a bar or less; see ex.2).
Ex.1 String Quartet in G minor, op.24 no.6 (g194, 1776–78), first movt
Ex.2 String Quartet in C, op.58 no.1 (g242, 1799), first movt
The most obvious characteristics of his melodic style are the repetition of short phrases, the use of triadic or scalic figuration, the symmetry of rhythmic structure and, above all, the delicate detail, with finely moulded lines much elaborated with trills, appoggiaturas, flourishes and other kinds of musical filigree work (ex.3). All these characteristics may also be noted in the famous minuet from the String Quintet op.11 no.5. To accommodate such florid writing, Boccherini's harmony is apt to be static during the enunciation of melodic material. But his harmonic range was wide for a composer of his time; he was well capable of using sudden shifts of harmony for a dramatic (as opposed to a structural) purpose, and in general his development sections are harmonically faster moving than his expositions.
Ex.3 String Quartet in C minor, op.18 no.1 (g283, 1774), second movt
‘Development’, however, is an uncertain word to use in referring to Boccherini's sonata-style movements. There is little thematic development in the Viennese Classical sense. He usually repeats some of his thematic material in related keys, and sometimes includes lengthy passages where instrumental figuration occupies the foreground while a harmonic scheme slowly unfolds. His tonal patterns are not always surely handled: a development section often ends in the wrong key, necessitating a clumsy switch at the recapitulation (particularly between major and minor: for example, opp.18 no.1, 24 no.2, 25 no.6). Boccherini's inclination towards a concertante style also counts against rigorous development. He wrote his chamber music for himself and for other virtuosos to play, always showing a sure grasp of string technique. The high, florid cello parts (which misled Einstein into thinking that they were intended for a second viola: Mozart, New York, 1945, p.189) and the elaborate violin parts inevitably represent a heterogeneous element texturally, no less so because Boccherini also assigned virtuoso passage-work to the viola and the second violin, and in quintets to the second cello.
Texture is a dynamic element in Boccherini's chamber music, as can be seen in ex.2, with its characteristic use of tremolando, open strings, double stops and syncopation. In a sensuous, wholly Latin way, he relished the sound of an ensemble of instruments for its own sake. He used bowed tremolandos extensively in inner parts, to lend movement and vibrancy to the music; he used double stops more for their enriching effect than from harmonic necessity, and triple or quadruple stops to create dramatic accents. Such other string devices as harmonics, flautato effects, sul ponticello, open notes or doubled open and stopped notes for emphasis, bariolage and shimmering tremolos across the strings are used with a freedom which would have been inappropriate to music conceived in more dialectical terms. In the arrangement and spacing of parts, too, Boccherini exercised a great deal of freedom, with much overlapping, particularly with two cellos (in the quintets) above the viola or with the first violin and first cello in 3rds or 6ths. The doubling of the two cellos to form a firm, resonant bass is characteristic; so are doubled octaves, either at the top of the texture or in the middle. In this context his imitation of non- or semi-musical sounds may be mentioned, for example, his bird-calls and music of shepherds' pipes and hunters' horns in the Quintet op.11 no.6, entitled ‘L'uccelliera’ (‘The Aviary’), his imitations of Madrid street sounds in the Quintet op.30 no.6, ‘La musica notturna della strade di Madrid’ (the publication of which he opposed because of its incomprehensibility to anyone unfamiliar with the city), his suggestion of the jew's harp in the Quintet op.36 no.6, and of ‘pifferi di montagna’ in the Quartet op.58 no.5.
Boccherini's interest in cyclic forms, referred to above, represents another individual development typical of a composer working in isolation. Sometimes it involved merely the linking of two movements with a common slow introduction; elsewhere entire movements or sections of movements are repeated, most usually so that a fast movement already heard reappears as a finale, or so that a central movement is presented with the same music following as preceding it. Sometimes even more complex schemes appear, for example in the Quintet op.39 no.1, where the material is arranged A–BCDB–EFE, or in the Quintet op.40 no.4, where the arrangement is A–BCBDB′CBDB′ (B′ represents a shortened version of B). These early ventures into cyclic schemes may be seen as an interesting attempt by a composer to impose an external unity on music lacking strong internal structure, or as an experiment by a composer of uncommon ingenuity and enterprise in the handling of musical materials, or both.
DEUMM (G. Salvetti)
C.L. Junker : Zwanzig Componisten: eine Skizze (Berne, 1776 ); repr. in Portefeuille für Musikliebhaber (Berne, 1792)
Obituary, Berlinische musikalische Zeitung, i ( 1805 ), 252
G. Bertini : Dizionario storico-critico degli scrittori di musica (Palermo, 1814–15 )
W. Beckford : Italy, with Sketches of Spain and Portugal, ii (London, 1834 ), 316–17
Castil-Blaze : ‘Esquisses biographiques et musicales: Alexandre Boucher’, Revue de Paris, nos.156–9 ( 1845 )
L. Picquot : Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Luigi Boccherini, suivie du catalogue raisonné de toutes ses oeuvres, tant publiées qu'inédites (Paris, 1851 , enlarged 2/1930 by G. de Saint-Foix as Boccherini)
D.A. Cerù : Cenni intorno alla vita e le opere di Luigi Boccherini (Lucca, 1864 )
D.A. Cerù : Cenni storici dell'insegnamento della musica in Lucca e dei più notabili maestri compositori che vi hanno fiorito (Lucca, 1871 )
A. Boccherini y Calonje : Luis Boccherini: apuntes biograficos y catalogo de las obras (Madrid, 1879 )
F. Torrefranca : ‘Le origini dello stile mozartiano: Boccherini’, RMI , xxxiii ( 1926 ), 505–23
C. Bouvet : ‘Boccherini inconnu: inventaire des manuscrits autographes du maître, appartenant à la Bibliothèque de l'Opéra de Paris’, RdM , x ( 1929 ), 255–74
A. Bonaventura : Boccherini (Milan and Rome, 1931 )
G. de Rothschild : Luigi Boccherini: sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris, 1962 ; Eng. trans., rev., 1965)
E. Barsham : ‘Six New Boccherini Cello Sonatas’, MT , cv ( 1964 ), 18–20
A. Bonnocorsi : ‘Boccherini’, Maestri di Lucca (Florence, 1967 ), 76–106
Y. Gérard : ‘Luigi Boccherini and Madame Sophie Gail’, Consort, xxiv ( 1967 ), 294–309
W. Lebermann : ‘Apokryph, Plagiat, Korruptel oder Falsifikat?’, Mf , xx ( 1967 ), 413–25
W. Lebermann : ‘“Boccherini” und Mozart: ein Diskussions-Beitrag’, Acta mozartiana, xiv/2 ( 1967 ), 6–13
G. Salvetti : ‘I sestetti di Luigi Boccherini’, Chigiana, xxiv, new ser., iv ( 1967 ), 209–11
E.I. Amsterdam : The String Quintets of Luigi Boccherini (diss., U. of California, Berkeley, 1968 )
Y. Gérard : Thematic, Bibliographical and Critical Catalogue of the Works of Luigi Boccherini (London, 1969 )
E. Grossato : ‘Un “Notturno” inedito del Boccherini nell'archivio della Cappella musicale antoniana’, Il Santo, xi ( 1971 ), 353–5
G. Salvetti : ‘Luigi Boccherini nell'ambito del quartetto italiano del secondo settecento’, AnMc , no.12 ( 1973 ), 227–52
V. Terenzio : ‘Immagine di Boccherini’, Quadrivium, xiv ( 1973 ), 207–16
K. Fischer : ‘Einflüsse Haydns in Streichquartetten Boccherinis’, GfMKB : Berlin 1974, 328–32
A.M. Smith : A Performance Edition and Historical Documentation of an Unpublished Cello Sonata in E? major by Luigi Boccherini (DMA diss., U. of Texas, 1977 )
L. Della Croce : Le 33 sinfonie di Boccherini: guida e analisi critica (Turin, 1979 )
M. Ophee : Luigi Boccherini's Guitar Quintets: New Evidence (Boston, 1981 )
M.G. Scott : The Violoncello Sonatas of Luigi Boccherini (diss., U. of Otago, 1981 )
M.G. Scott : ‘Boccherini's B flat Cello Concerto: a Reappraisal of the Sources’, EMc , xii ( 1984 ), 355–7
J.C. Griffith : Villancicos by Luigi Boccherini: an Edition (DMA diss. U. of Missouri, Kansas City, 1985 )
E. Grossato : ‘I concerti per violoncello di Luigi Boccherini: appunti per un approfondimento stilistico’, Rassegna veneta di studi musicali, i ( 1985 ), 113–33
C. Speck : ‘On the Changes in the Four-Part Writing in Boccherini's String Quartets’, España en la música de occidente: Salamanca 1985, ii, 129–31
C. Speck : Boccherinis Streichquartette Studien zur Kompositionsweise und zur gattungsgeschichtlichen Stellung (Munich, 1987 )
A. Gallego : ‘La Clementina, de Boccherini’, RdMc , x ( 1987 ), 633–9
R. Coli : Luigi Boccherini (Lucca, 1988 , 2/1992)
L. Della Croce : Il divino Boccherini: vita, opere, epistolario (Padua, 1988 )
C. Speck : ‘Ein bisher unbekanntes Konzert für Violoncello und Orchester von Boccherini: zur Frage von Ausführung und Besetzung des Bratschenbasses in Boccherinis Konzerten für Violoncello’, Mf , xlii ( 1989 ), 20–36
C. Speck : ‘Mozart und Boccherini zur Frage der Italianità in Mozarts frühen Streichquartetten’, GfMKB : Baden, nr Vienna, 1991, 921–32
M. Tchernowitz-Neustadt : The String Trios of Luigi Boccherini (diss., Bar-Ilan U., 1991 )
R. Barce : Boccherini en Madrid: primeros años: 1768–1779 (Madrid, 1992 )
M. Parker : ‘Luigi Boccherini and the Court of Prussia’, CMc , no.52 ( 1993 ), 27–37
E. Sainati : ‘Boccherini: a Castilian Line of Descent’, The Strad, civ ( 1993 ), 925–6
Luigi Boccherini e la musica strumentale dei maestri italiani: Siena 1993 [Chigiana, new ser., xxiii ( 1993 )]
G. Biagi Ravenni : ‘“Molti in Lucca si applicavano alla professione della musica”: storie di formazione e di emigrazione nella patria di Luigi Boccherini’, ibid., 69–109
A. Cattoretti : ‘1771–1773: gli ultimi quintetti per archi di Giovanni Battista Sammartini, i primi di Luigi Boccherini’, ibid., 193–229
B. Churgin : ‘Sammartini and Boccherini: Continuity and Change in the Italian Instrumental Tradition of the Classic Period’, ibid., 171–91
F. Degrada : ‘Luigi Boccherini e la musica strumentale dei maestri italiani in Europa fra Sette e Ottocento’, ibid., 363–75
C. Gianturco : ‘“La confederazione dei Sabini con Roma”: contributo di Luigi Boccherini alle “Tasche” di Lucca’, ibid., 27–47
L. Goretti : ‘La sonata n. 6 per violoncello e continuo: analisi di revisioni nel corso di due secoli’, ibid., 151–5
E. Grossato : ‘Boccherini e Venezia’, ibid., 135–50
G. Salvetti : ‘Camerismo sinfonico e sinfonismo cameristico: alla ricerca di un approccio analitico pertinente’, ibid., 337–52
C. Speck : ‘Boccherini und die Verbreitung seiner Musik in europäischen Musikzentren des 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhunderts’, ibid., 111–34
M. Tchernowitz-Neustadtl : ‘Aspects of the Cycle and Tonal Relationships in Luigi Boccherini's String Trios’, ibid., 157–69
D. Heartz : ‘The Young Boccherini: Lucca, Vienna, and the Electoral Courts’, JM , xiii ( 1995 ), 103–16
L. Gallo : ‘Boccherini ucciso dalla tisi’, Il Tirreno ( 14 April 1996 )
T.P. Noonan : Structural Anomalies in the Symphonies of Boccherini (diss., U. of Wisconsin, Madison, 1996 )
C. Gianturco, ed.: Luigi Boccherini: La confederazione dei Sabini con Roma (Lucca, 1997 )
Christian Speck (1–2, work-list, bibliography); Stanley Sadie (3–4)