Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini (February 19, 1743 – May 28, 1805) was an Italian classical era composer and cellist whose music retained a courtly and galante style while he matured somewhat apart from the major European musical centers. Boccherini is most widely known for one particular minuet from his String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 (G 275), and the Cello Concerto in B flat major (G 482). This last work was long known in the heavily altered version by German cellist and prolific arranger Friedrich Grützmacher, but has recently been restored to its original version. Boccherini's music was influenced by Spanish and Mediterranean music in that he composed several quintets for guitar.
Boccherini was born in Lucca, Italy, into a musical family. At a young age he was sent by his father, a cellist and double bass player, to study in Rome. In 1757 they both went to Vienna where they were employed by the court as musicians in the Burgtheater. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid, where he was employed by Infante Luis Antonio of Spain, younger brother of King Charles III. There he flourished under royal patronage, until one day when the King expressed his disapproval at a passage in a new trio, and ordered Boccherini to change it. The composer, no doubt irritated with this intrusion into his art, doubled the passage instead, leading to his immediate dismissal. Then he accompanied Don Luis to Arenas de San Pedro, a little town at the Gredos mountains; there and in the closest town of Candeleda, Boccherini wrote many of his most brilliant works.
Among his late patrons was the French consul Lucien Bonaparte, as well as King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, flautist, and avid supporter of the arts. Boccherini fell on hard times following the deaths of his Spanish patron, two wives, and two daughters, and he died almost in poverty in Madrid in 1805, being survived by two sons. His blood line continues to this day in Spain.
Much of his chamber music follows models established by Joseph Haydn; however, Boccherini is often credited with improving Haydn's model of the string quartet by bringing the cello to prominence, whereas Haydn had always relegated it to an accompaniment role. Rather, some sources for Boccherini's style are in the works of a famous Italian cellist, Giovanni Battista Cirri, who was born before Boccherini and before Haydn, and in the Spanish popular music.
A virtuoso cellist of high caliber, Boccherini often played violin repertoire on the cello, at pitch, a skill he developed by substituting for ailing violinists while touring. This supreme command of the instrument brought him much praise from his contemporaries (notably Pierre Baillot, Pierre Rode, and Bernhard Romberg), and is evident in the cello parts of his compositions (particularly in the quintets for two cellos, treated often as cello concertos with string quartet accompaniment).
He wrote a large amount of chamber music, including over one hundred string quintets for two violins, viola and two cellos (a type which he pioneered, in contrast with the then common scoring for two violins, two violas and one cello), a dozen guitar quintets, not all of which have survived, nearly a hundred string quartets, and a number of string trios and sonatas (including at least 19 for the cello). His orchestral music includes around 30 symphonies and 12 virtuoso cello concertos.
With a ministerial decree dated 27 April 2006, the Opera Omnia of the composer Luigi Boccherini was promoted to the status of Italian National Edition. The director of the new critical edition is professor Christian Speck (Koblenz-Landau), and the advisory committee includes Theophil Antonicek (Vienna), Sergio Durante (Padua), Ludwig Finscher (Heidelberg), Yves Gérard (Paris), Roberto Illiano (Cremona-Lucca), Fulvia Morabito (Cremona-Lucca), Rudolf Rasch (Utrecht), Massimiliano Sala (Cremona-Lucca), and Andrea Schiavina (Bologna).
Boccherini's style is characterized by the typical Rococo charm, lightness, and optimism, and exhibits much melodic and rhythmic invention, coupled with frequent influences from the guitar tradition of his adopted country, Spain.
Neglected after his death—the dismissive sobriquet "Haydn's wife" dates from the nineteenth century— his works have been gaining more recognition lately, in print, record, and concert hall. His "celebrated minuet" (String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 (G 275)) was popularized through its use in the film The Ladykillers while his famous "Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid" (String Quintet in C Major, Op. 30 No. 6, G324), became popular through its use in the films and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
His distinctive compositions for string quintet (two violins, one viola, two cellos), long neglected after his death, have been brought back to life by the Boccherini Quintet in the second half of the 20th century, when two of its founding members discovered a complete collection of the first edition of the 141 string quintets in Paris and began playing and recording them around the world.
LUIGI BOCCHERINI (1743-1805), Italian composer, son of an Italian bass-player, was born at Lucca, and studied at Rome, where he became a fine 'cellist, and soon began to compose. He returned to Lucca, where for some years he was prominent as a player, and there he produced two oratorios and an opera. He toured in Europe, and in 1768 was received in Paris by Gossec and his circle with great enthusiasm, his instrumental pieces being highly applauded; and from 1769 to 1785 he held the post of "composer and virtuoso" to the king of Spain's brother, the infante Luis, at Madrid. He afterwards became "chambercomposer" to King Frederick William II. of Prussia, till 1797, when he returned to Spain. He died at Madrid on the 28th of May 1805.
As an admirer of Haydn, and a voluminous writer of instrumental music, chiefly for the violoncello, Boccherini represents the effect of the rapid progress of a new art on a mind too refined to be led into crudeness, too inventive and receptive to neglect any of the new artistic resources within its cognizance, and too superficial to grasp their real meaning. His mastery of the violoncello, and his advanced sense of beauty in instrumental tone-colour, must have made even his earlier works seem to contemporaries at least as novel and mature as any of those experiments at which Haydn, with eight years more of age and experience, was labouring in the development of the true new forms. Most of Boccherini's technical resources proved useless to Haydn, and resemblances occur only in Haydn's earliest works (e.g. most of the slow movements of the quartets in op. 3 and in some as late as op. 17); whichever derived the characteristics of such movements from the other, the advantage is decidedly with Boccherini. But the progress of music did not lie in the production of novel beauties of instrumental tone in a style in which polyphonic organization was either deliberately abandoned or replaced by a pleasing illusion, while the form in its larger aspects was a mere inorganic amplification of the old suite-forms, which presupposed a genuine polyphonic organization as the vitalizing principle of their otherwise purely decorative nature. The true tendency of the new sonata forms was to make instrumental music dramatic in its variety and contrasts, instead of merely decorative. Haydn from the outset buried himself with the handling of new rhythmic proportions; and if it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the surprising beauty of colour in such a specimen of Boccherini's 125 string-quintets as that in E major (containing the popular minuet) is perhaps more modern and certainly safer in performance than any special effect Haydn ever achieved, it is nevertheless true that even this beauty fails to justify the length and monotony of the work. Where Haydn uses any fraction of the resources of such a style, the ultimate effect is in proportion to a purpose of which Boccherini, with all his genuine admiration of his elder brother in art, could form no conception. Boccherini's works are, however, still indispensable for violoncellists, both in their education and their concert repertories; and his position in musical history is assured as that of the most original and, next to Tartini, perhaps the greatest writer of music for stringed instruments in the late Italian amplifications of the older quasi-polyphonic sonata or suite-form that survived into the beginning of the 19th century in the works of Nardini. Boccherini may safely be regarded as its last real master. He was wittily characterized by the contemporary violinist Puppo as "the wife of Haydn"; which is very true, if man and woman are two different species; but not as true as e.g. the equally common saying that "Schubert is the wife of Beethoven," and still less true than that "Vittoria is the wife of Palestrina." His life, with a Catalogue raisonne, was published by L. Picquot (1851). (D. F. T.)
[[File:|thumb|Portrait of Luigi Boccherini playing the cello (by an unknown artist, around 1764-1767)]]
Luigi Boccherini (born in Lucca, 19 February 1743; died Madrid, 28 May 1805) is an Italian cellist and composer. As a boy he showed great talent and was sent to Rome to study music. When he returned to Lucca he entered the theatre orchestra and the town band. He travelled a lot, visiting France, Spain, and Germany. In Berlin he was offered the job of chamber composer to the King of Prussia. He took the job, but had to promise only to work for the king, and no one else. When the king died he found himself without a job, so he went back to Madrid. There he found work at times, but a lot of the time he was very poor.
Boccherini is sometimes nicknamed "Haydn’s wife" because his music sounds similar to that of Haydn. They may have known one another, but we cannot be sure.