Boccherini, (Ridolf o) Luigi

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Boccherini, (Ridolf o) Luigi

famous Italian cellist and composer; b. Lucca, Feb. 19, 1743; d. Madrid, May 28, 1805. He was the son of Leopoldo Boccherini, a double bass player in the Cappella Palatina in Lucca, from whom he may have received his initial instruction in cello before studying the instrument with Domenico Francesco Vannucci at the seminary school of Lucca Cathedral. In 1753-54 he completed his training as a cellist under Giovanni Battista Costanzi in Rome. On Aug. 4, 1756, Boccherini made his debut at the age of 13 playing a cello concerto at the church of San Romano in Lucca. In 1758 he and his father were engaged as members of the orch. of the Théâtre Allemande in Vienna, where they were engaged again in 1760-61 and 1763-64. Boccherini also made highly successful concert appearances during these years in both Vienna and Italy. In 1764 he became a cellist in the Cappella Palatina, where he remained until his father’s death in 1766. He and the orch/s concertmaster, Filippo Manfredi, decided to seek their fortune abroad and eventually made their way to Paris, where Boccherini was already esteemed via the publication of his first trios and quartets in 1767. On March 20, 1768, Boccherini played a cello sonata at the Concerts spirituels. Later that year he and Manfredi were called to Madrid as members of the orch. of the Compagnia dell’Opera Italiana dei Sitios Reales. In 1770 Boccherini was appointed Compositore e virtuoso di camera to the Infante Don Luis Antonio Jaime de Borbon, brother of King Carlos III, in Aranjuez. In 1776 Boccherini’s patron chose to marry beneath his social class, and the court degraded him to the status of a count and compelled him to move to Arenas de San Pedro. Boccherini remained in his patron’s service there until the count’s death in 1785. He then returned to Madrid. On Jan. 21, 1786, he was named court composer to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, who became King Friedrich Wilhelm II in Aug. of that year. There is no evidence, however, that Boccherini ever visited Prussia during his service to the Prussian monarch. Indeed, that same year, he accepted the position of Direttore di concerto of the orch. of the Countess Maria Josefa of Benavente, Duchess of Osuna. Boccherini’s service to the Prussian court ended with the death of King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1797. After the Countess left Madrid in 1798, Boccherini apparently lost her financial support as well. However, in 1800-01 he was employed by Lucien Bonaparte, the French ambassador to Madrid. His last years were plagued by poor health.

Boccherini was a prolific composer whose varied output reflected his assured handling of the classical style. He was especially known for his instrumental music, including some 30 syms., 11 cello concertos, 125 string quintets, 91 string quartets, 48 string trios, 24 quintets for Strings and Flute or Oboe, 21 violin sonatas, 16 sextets, 6 cello sonatas, 2 octets, and much guitar music. He also wrote a zarzuela, La Clementina (1786), and a Stabat mater for Soprano and Strings, a Christmas cantata, and other sacred works.


D. Cerù, Cenni intorno alla vita e le opere di L. B. (Lucca, 1864); H. Schletterer, B. (Leipzig, 1882); G. Malfatti, L. B. nell’arte, nella vita e nelle opere (Lucca, 1905); L. Parodi, L. B. (Genoa, 1913); A. Bonaventura, B. (Milan and Rome, 1931); G. de Rothschild, L. B. (Paris, 1962; Eng. tr., 1965); Y. Gérard, Thematic, Bibliographical and Critical Catalogue of the Works of L.B. (London, 1969); P. Carmirelli, ed., Le opere complete di L. B. (Rome, 1970); M. Ophee, L. B.’s Guitar Quintets: New Evidence (Boston, 1981); L. della Croce, // divino B.: Vita, opere, epistolario (Padua, 1988); L. Olschki, ed., Atti del convegno internazionale di studi: L. B. e la musica strumentale (Florence, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire