Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini

(19 February 1743, Lucca - 28 May 1805, Madrid)


Luigi Bocherini was an Italian composer and cellist who lived in the Classical era. He retained a courtly and gallant style while he matured somewhat apart from the major European musical centers. Born in a family with musical background, he received his first cello lessons from his father when he was only 5 years old. Luigi continued his studies from the age of nine with Abbé Vanucci, music director of the cathedral at San Martino.

At the time he gave his first public performance, he was considered to have already surpassed his teacher's skills. Shortly after, he was sent to Rome by his father to continue his musical studies under G.B. Costanzi, music director of Saint Peter's Basilica. After one year in Rome, Luigi and his father were both summoned to Vienna, where they were hired by the Imperial Theater Orchestra.

On his second journey to Vienna (1760), Boccherini, at 17, made his debut as a composer with his Six Trios for Two Violins and Cello, G 77–82. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid where he was employed by Infante Luis Antonio of Spain, younger brother of King Charles III. Here 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. Boccherini, no doubt irritated, doubled the passage instead, which led to his immediate dismissal.
During his third stay in that city (1764), a public concert by Boccherini was enthusiastically received. In August, the same year, he obtained a permanent position in Lucca with the local church and theater orchestras. In 1765, following his trip to Milan with his father, Boccherini composed his first string quartet. In the same year he was part of Giovanni Battista Sammartini's orchestra in Lombardy. Although his health started to shatter, he started touring in Italy (1767) after forming a partnership with the violinist Filippo Manfredi, and made his way to Paris, where both of them were highly received by the public. He also published a number of notable works while in Paris, including a set of six string quartets.
In 1769 Boccherini and Manfredi journeyed to Spain, where the composer enjoyed great acclaim. Boccherini then took up another new genre, the string quintet. He in fact became best known for these works, written for string quartet with an additional cello. n 1785, when both Clementina and the infant died, the king granted him a pension of 12,000 reals, after which he was free to accept the patronage of (among others) Frederick William II of Prussia, who was an amateur cellist and well acquainted with Boccherini’s music. To his prodigious instrumental production, Boccherini added vocal compositions: the Stabat Mater, G 532 (1781), the zarzuela La Clementina, G 540 (1786), with libretto by Ramon de la Cruz, and the Christmas Villancicos, G 539 (1783).

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 frequently 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.

Luigi Boccherini's legacy consists of a large amount of chamber music, including over one hundred string quintets for two violins, viola and two cellos (a type which he pioneered), a dozen guitar quintets, nearly a hundred string quartets, and a number string trios and sonatas. 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.

Here  you can find a list of Luigi Boccherini's compositions.