Luigi Boccherini is a famous Italian cellist and composer of the 18th century. His contribution to the world’s music culture is undeniable, his performing skills were a paragon of cello playing and no doubt had a profound impact on the level of cello performing techniques both In Italy and abroad. Contemporaries were captivated by the melodious, expressive and emotional nature of his playing; Mozart and Beethoven also valued highly Boccherini’s creative work. It is hard to find a person today who is not acquainted with Boccherini’s celebrated Minuet.
Luigi Boccherini was born in 1743 in Lucca. He started to learn to play cello at an early age under the guidance of his father, a double bass player who had also some knowledge of the cello. Later he studied cello at the local seminary under Abbot Domenico Vannucci and at the age of 12 started to give solo performances in his native town and eventually got a job in the town theater orchestra. In 1757 he graduated from the music faculty of the seminary and, striving to improve his skills, went to Rome where he spent about a year visiting concerts and honing his cello playing skills on his own. In Rome he did not miss a chance to go to concerts of such celebrities of the time as Tartini, Giardini, Pugniani, Constanzi and others who indubitably enriched the young musician’s outlook, endowed him with experience and influenced his style. In 1769, after successfully touring Spain, France and Germany, he was invited to the post of “composer-virtuoso” to the court of the King of Spain’s brother in Madrid where he stayed until 1789. After that Boccherini worked as “chamber-composer” in Berlin and returned to Madrid only in 1797 where he lived until his last day. The acclaimed musician died on May 28, 1805.
Boccherini’s oeuvre includes operas, cantatas and oratorios. It is rather surprising that in the “age of opera” he mainly created instrumental pieces. His legacy accounts for 30 symphonies, a great number of orchestral works, cello and violin sonatas, concertos and about 400 ensemble pieces.
Boccherini’s music is sincere and emotional, full of meaning and at the same time melodious, genteel and charming. His works lack the prudence or austerity inherent to most of the music of his time. Very candid, it comes from the heart and reaches into the most remote corners of the soul. His works are masterly enough, but the dynamics, articulation and colorful performing techniques in his music do not evolve into meaningless effects and are only used for utter expressiveness. In Boccherini’s compositions fragments of Italian and Spanish folk music can often be heard.
Luigi Boccherini is credited with the development of the sonata form and of the symphony genre; also he was one of the originators of the string quintet genre. More than that, he was the first composer whose quintets gained recognition in Europe. The talented musician exerted a substantial influence on the creative work of the Viennese Classics, on Mozart’s music in particular.
It was Boccherini who established the recognition and reputation of the cello as a solo instrument. His compositions for cello are still to be found in musical repertoires and performed by students and renowned artist alike, which gives evidence of high artistic value of the music composed by Boccherini.