Luigi Boccherini Essay, Research Paper
Luigi Boccherini was a prolific composer, particularly of chamber music with a distinctive and highly wrought style, and he is the chief representative of Latin instrumental music during the Viennese Classical period. Boccherini was also an exceptional cellist.
Luigi Boccherini (his baptismal first name Rudalfo was never used) was the son of a cello or double bass player, Leopoldo Boccherini. Luigi was born in Lucca, Italy in February 19, 1743. The Boccherini family had considerable artistic gifts. Luigi’s brother Giovan Gastone (1742-1800) was a poet and a dancer, Luigi’s sister Maria Ester had a distinguished career in Vienna as a ballet dancer. Boccherini first studied music on the cello with his father. Then Luigi’s father, “Leopoldo handed over Luigi to the Abbate Vanucci, maestro di cappella of the cathedral” (Rothschild 3). Vanucci taught at the seminary of San Martino. Luigi made his first debut as a cellist at the age of 13 and was later played at the local feast day celebrations. In 1757 Luigi went to Rome presenting himself to the cellist Constanzi, maestro di capella at St. Peters. Luigi played for Canstanzi, and after hearing Luigi, Constanzi disn’t hesitate to take Luigi as a student. After about a year in Rome Luigi and his father were asked to go to Vienna to play in the orchestra of the imperial capital at the court theatre. “Luigi and his father stayed with the Imperial theatre from December 1757 to October 1758″ (Rothschild 9). After leaving Vienna, Luigi returned to his studies in Rome. Again Luigi and his father returned to play in the orchestra. Luigi then returned to Lucca in the spring of 1760. In 1763 Luigi returned to Vienna for a third time, by this time his reputation was growing as a cellist after an application was submitted to Lucca to be maestro was granted. During the time that Luigi was in Lucca he composed two oratorios for performance in the church of St. Maria Corteorlandini and a cantata for a local celebration feast. During his years in Lucca Luigi often took trips to Milan, where it is said that he arranged “the first public string quartet performance in 1765″ (Sadie 825). In 1766 Boccherini and his quartet went on tour and ended up in Paris, France in 1767. Boccherini stayed in Paris at least until the summer of 1768. After Boccherini left Paris that summer his next journey was to Madrid where he stayed most of his life. During the first couple of years in Madrid Luigi composed works for string quartets and it was published in 1769. He also composed a sinfonia concertante for performance in Madrid’s concert series during Lent 1770. In November of that same year Boccherini was appointed to the service of the Infante as composer and performer (virtuoso di camera e compositor di musica) and the obligation to compose exclusively for his employer. Most of Boccherini’s works were published in Paris. In 1771 Boccherini married Clemintina Pelicho. Though she died in 1785. In 1786 Boccherini was appointed court composer to Fredrick Wilheim II of Prussia, and amateur cello player. “Shortly after that Boccherini left Spain to take up his new appointment, his German sojourn, it lasted until 1788″ (Parker 28-29). After the death of Fredrick Wilheim II, Boccherini petitioned his successor for employment. On the 2nd of March 1798 the new King refused his application. At the end of 1798 Boccherini composed several pieces for guitar for the marquis. Boccherini spent the rest of his years in poverty, yet he did seem to keep himself quite busy composing and performing in the late 1790’s. “The distress which he found in 1803 by Sophie Gailmna may have been the death of the Boccherini’s daughters than the poverty situation. Boccherini died in Madrid on May 28, 1805. In 1927 his remains were transferred to Lucca and reentered with great solemnity.
Boccherini was an exceptionally prolific composer of chamber music” (Slonimsky 188). Boccherini’s list of compositions are 20 chamber symphonies, 2 octets, 16 sextets, 125 string quartets, 60 string trios, 21 violin sonatas, 6 cello sonatas, 6 cello concertos, 2 operas, a Christmas concerto and a few masses. Natural melody and fluency of instrumental writing mark his music. He had a profound admiration for the music of Haydn, Boccherini’s style was so close to Haydn’s that the affinity gave to the rise to saying “Boccherini is the wife of Haydn” (Slonimsky 184).
Boccherini style became increasingly personal and even distinctive over the 44 years in which he composed, to such an extent that in his late music he sometimes seems to be repeating himself. The earliest trios and quartets are in standard Italian chamber music style apart from their frequent use of the cello in its tenor register 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 Monnl; in Paris he must have heard music by the Mannheim composers as well as such locel men as Gossec and Schobert” (Talbot 494). But it would be hard to pinpoint the influence of such men on Boccherini’s music; his chamber music is particular. By the works of 1769-70 his technique was fully assured his style thereafter changed only gradually, graining in freedom and unorthodoxy to a point where his latest works (from 1790 on) show little regard for conventions of form or tonal schemes. Some of he works of these late years suggest a growing inwardness of style, 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 crosscurrents of Europe may be responsible. There are features of his later music that 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 characteristics of Spanish dances; though much of the repetition and syncopation can be found in his earlier music too.
The most obvious characteristics of his melodic style are the repetition of short phrases, the use of triadic or scale figuration, the symmetry of rhythmic structure, and above all, the delicate, with finely molded lines much elaborated with trills, appoggiaturas, flourishes and other kinds of musical ornamentation. To accommodate such florid writing, “Boccherini’s harmony is apt to be static during the presentation of such melodic material” (Pincherle 20). 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 purpose, and in general his development sections are harmonically faster moving than his expositions.
The Concerto is D Major for Flute and Orchestra, was written in 1780. The concerto starts out with Allegro Moderato and goes into the solo flute section. Boccherini’s work might imagine him to have known no music but his own. In the concerto you will see in (Example 1) that there is use of repeated syncopated notes. Boccherini’s individual manner of phrasing, with slurs from a weak beat to a strong beat which by depriving a line of direct accentuation leads to a certain softness and charm to its melodic contours. In Example 2 Boccherini show the kind of effect he was aiming for by demonstrating the direction of soave, congrazia and dolce. However later in the piece Boccherini exploded this gentleness of music with fortissimo passages (Example 3). These last few examples that I have given were from Boccherini’s String Quartet in C. The form that Boccherini used in the Concerto in D for Flute and Orchestra in binary. You can see that through out the piece there are similar repeats in the movements (Example 4). Boccherini exercised freedom with much overlapping in doubling parts as you can see in Example 5. Most of all Boccherini’s works were very well expressed in dynamics as you can see in the concerto (Example 6).
Boccherini died on the 28th of May 1805. Boccherini was truly one of the most distinguished instrumentalist composers of his country, Italy. “In the same month of his death, the memory of Boccherini was honored in the Gazette Musicale Generale de Paris, where he was described as a marvelous musician. One poet Chenedolle said that Boccherini’s music was uplifting and that he would miss the great composer’s works. Many of Boccherini’s manuscripts were passed on to his descendants but were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Among the destroyed was Boccherini’s catalogue of music. But fortunately Alfredo Boccherini published a catalogue of his great grandfather’s works in 1879. Boccherini began this catalogue in 1760 and worked on it up until his death in 1805.
Parker, Mara, “Current Musicology” Dept. of Music Columbia University, New York, 1993.
Pincherle, Marc. Luigi Boccherini; his life his works. New York, W.W. Norton 1957.
Rothschild, Germaine de, Luigi Boccherini. Oxford Univeristy Press, London, 1965.
Sadie, Stanley. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Macmillan Publishers, New York, 1980, Vol. 2.
Slonimsky, Nicolas, Bakers Bibliographical Dictionary of Music. Macmillan Publishers, New York 1978.
Talbot, Micheal. “Boccherini Conference” Early Music. V. 19 n3, August 1991, 494(4).