Boccherini, Luigi

views updated May 14 2018


Rococo composer who helped crystallize the classical style, baptized Ridolfo Luigi; b. Lucca, Italy, Feb. 19, 1743; d. Madrid, May 25, 1805. His father, Leopold, a contrabass player, gave him his first violoncello lessons, and Luigi was playing professionally at 13. Further work with local teachers led him in 1757 to Rome, where he was exposed to the Palestrina style. Publication of his first collection of string quartets (1764) and recital tours with violinist Filippo Manfredi so impressed the Spanish ambassador to Paris that in 1768 he was named composer and virtuoso to the Infante Don Luis of Spain. After Luis's death in 1785, Boccherini joined Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, an amateur cellist to whom he dedicated his celebrated Cello Concerto. The king's death (1797) freed him to return to Madrid, where in late 1800 his momentary patron was Lucien Bonaparte, French ambassador. Thereafter he supported his family with such hackwork as scoring his works for guitar aficio nados, but still maintaining his creative pace undaunted by poverty, intrigues, or family sorrows. He died as he had lived, a gentle Christian. Ceremonial return of his body to Lucca in 1927, plus the onset of long-play recording, triggered a thorough reappraisal of his music. Current research has refuted the "wife of [F. J.] Haydn" canard, and Boccherini is now regarded as the peer of pre-Mozart classicists. Although he was too much the lyricist and too timidly the contrapuntist to achieve stature as a symphonist, his chamber and other instrumental works reveal a perfection of form, instrumental inventiveness, and a civilized, contemplative beauty that is heightened by its unique infusion of autochthonous Spanish idioms. Of some 370 known works, the religious group includes a Mass for four voices and instruments; a cantata, villancicos, and motets for Christmastide; a pair of oratorios; and a Stabat Mater for three voices and strings that proves richer and more mature than pergolesi's, with which it is often compared.

Bibliography: l. picquot, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Luigi Boccherini, suivie du catalogue raisonné (Paris 1851). g. de saint-foix, Boccherini: Notes et documents nouveaux (Paris 1930), contains and updates Picquot. a. bonaventura, Boccherini (Milan 1931). g. de rothschild, Luigi Boccherini: Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris 1962). k. stephenson, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 2:16. c. f. pohl, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9v. (5th ed. London 1954) 1:778779. "Lucca a Luigi Boccherini,"Lucchesia, 5 (Oct. 9, 1927) special issue. a. bonaccorsi, "Boccherini e il Stabat, " La rassegna musicale, 19 (April 1949) 9297. p. h. lÁng, Music in Western Civilization (New York 1941). a. broude, "More about Luigi Boccherini: A Virtuoso Cellist-Composer," Violoncello Society, Inc. Newsletter, fall (1983) 15. p. griffiths, The String Quartet: A History (New York 1983) 2426. d. heartz, "The Young Boccherini: Lucca, Vienna, and the Electoral Courts," Journal of Musicology, 13 (1995) 103116. t. p. noonan, "Structural Anomalies in the Symphonies of Boccherini" (Ph.D. diss. University of Wisconsin at Madison 1996). j. a. boccherini sÁnchez, "Los testamentos de Boccherini," Revista de Musicología, 22 (1999) 93121. j. totella, "Líneas alternativas de investigación musicológica: El caso de Luigi Boccherini cerca del Banco de San Carlos," Revista de Musicología, 21 (1998) 531552; Luigi Boccherini y el Banco de San Carlos: un aspecto inédito (Madrid 1998).

[m. e. evans]

Boccherini, (Ridolfo) Luigi

views updated Jun 08 2018

Boccherini, (Ridolfo) Luigi (b Lucca, 1743; d Madrid, 1805). It. cellist and composer. Famous in teens as virtuoso cellist (début at age of 13). Studied in Rome with G. B. Costanzi, 1757. Contemp. of Haydn and resembling him in ideals, methods, and general spirit. Spent much time in Vienna 1757–64. Settled in Madrid in 1770 with court post, remaining until 1787. Appointed ‘composer of his Chamber’ by Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, but it is doubtful if he ever took up his duties at the court in Berlin. After 1798 he lacked a patron and died in poverty. Comp. opera; 30 syms.; 11 vc. concs.; 91 str. qts.; 154 quintets (various combinations); gui. qts.; 60 trios; church mus.; etc. The famous Minuet is from the string quintet in E major, Op.13, No.5. Boccherini's mus., which combines harmonic adventurousness with melodic profundity, is well worth detailed study.