Luigi Boccherini

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Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), Italian composer and cellist, came from a notable family of musicians, dancers and poets. From his teens he was recognised as an outstanding player and toured with his father throughout northern Italy and as far afield as Vienna. In 1767 he set off for a tour of France and England but, the next year, found himself in Madrid. He was to spend the rest of his life in Spain, either at the royal court, or in private employ. (Whilst given the position of court composer to the king of Prussia and writing music for the king, he never actually visited there.) He died in apparent poverty in Madrid in 1805.

He composed from an early age, mainly chamber music, but there is an opera, sacred music and some symphonies to his credit and his cello concertos are popular today. He wrote many hundreds of sonatas, trios, quartets and quintets for string instruments, including 9 guitar quintets which are among his most popular works.

  • His most well-known work is a minuet [ – one of those pieces of music that is so instantly familiar it sounds clichéd.
  • Part of a string quintet was adapted for inclusion in the soundtrack of the movie, “Master and Commander”.

Boccherini was a contemporary of Joseph Haydn. His music seems a Mediterranean version of that great man’s – it has the same general air of good nature and even jocularity that takes nothing away from its quality as “serious” music and makes us wonder if he shared Haydn's sense of humour and general good character. His stature in Spain has never been doubted, but it is only in the last 50 years or so that the rest of the world has begun to see past the ubiquitous “minuetto” to the importance of his music as a whole.