About this Recording
8.557795 - BOCCHERINI: 3 Cello Sonatas / FACCO: Balletto in C Major / PORRETTI: Cello Sonata in D Major
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Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805)
Cello Sonatas

The Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743, the son of a double-bass player. His family was distinguished not only in music but also boasted poets and dancers among its members. His elder brother Giovanni Gastone, born in 1742, was both dancer and poet, the author of the text of Haydn’s Il ritorno di Tobia and of the libretti of some earlier stage works of the Vienna court composer, Antonio Salieri. He later became official poet of the Coliseo de los Caños del Peral in Madrid, a theatre to the concerts in which Boccherini had contributed music. His sister Maria Ester was a dancer and married Onorato Viganò, a distinguished dancer and choreographer. Her son, Salvatore Viganò, who studied composition with Boccherini, occupies a position of considerable importance in the history of ballet.

By the age of thirteen Boccherini was appearing in concerts as a cellist. In 1757 he went with his father and older brother and sister to Venice and Trieste and the following year he appeared with his father in Vienna, where they were both invited to join the court orchestra, returning to Vienna for two further seasons in 1760-1761 and 1763-1764. In the intervening periods he appeared in Lucca and in Florence. In 1764 Boccherini succeeded in achieving appointment as a cellist in the Cappella Palatina in Lucca and undertook engagements in Padua and Cremona, among other places. In 1766 he joined with his fellow-townsman, the violinist Manfredi, leader of the Cappella Palatina, the latter’s teacher Nardini and the composer and viola-player Cambini in serious study and performance of the quartets of Haydn and of Boccherini’s own early quartets, and after the death of his father in August of that year he went with Manfredi to Genoa, where he seems to have composed at least one of his two oratorios for the Oratorians. In the autumn of 1767 he set out from Genoa with Manfredi, with the intention of travelling to London, staying first in Nice and then for some six months in Paris, where they won considerable success. Here Boccherini’s first set of six string quartets was published, and sets of string trios. In France Boccherini and Manfredi won considerable success and Boccherini himself also continued his work as a composer, in addition to his performances as a virtuoso. In 1768 the pair left for Spain, appearing first at court with an Italian opera company. Establishing himself in Madrid, Boccherini was appointed composer and virtuoso di camera to the Infante Don Luis, younger brother of King Carlos III, after a cooler reception from the King and the Prince of the Asturias, his heir. Part of the following period he spent in Madrid and part at the Palace of Arenas de San Pedro in the province of Avila, where the Infante retired after a morganatic marriage. Members of the Font family were employed by the Prince as a string quartet, for which Boccherini wrote quartets and with whom he performed his own string quintets. He renewed his association with Francisco Font in later years. After the death of Don Luis in 1785, Boccherini, who had spent some fifteen years in his service, received a pension from the king and the promise of a position in the Real Capilla that was not fulfilled. He found employment, however, with the Benavente- Osuna family in Madrid, directing the orchestra of the Countess-Duchess and providing music for her salon. Here he was one of a distinguished international company that included his friend, the painter Goya. At the same time he was appointed court composer to Friedrich Wilhelm, nephew of Frederick the Great, who succeeded his uncle as King of Prussia in 1787. In this latter position he provided the cello-playing king with new compositions under the same kind of exclusive arrangement as that which he had earlier enjoyed with Don Luis. There is, however, no evidence that Boccherini ever spent any time in Prussia. After the death of King Carlos III in 1788, the new king, Carlos IV, established a chamber ensemble and in 1795 a chamber orchestra, in neither of which Boccherini was involved. With the unexpected death of Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1797 Boccherini’s employment there came to an end, when his request for a continuation of his position and a pension was refused, while the Benavente-Osuna family moved to Paris in 1799. Boccherini received support from Lucien Bonaparte, the French ambassador, and remained busy to the end of his life, although visitors reported that he lived in all the appearance of poverty, now without any substantial patronage after Lucien Bonaparte’s return to Paris and saddened by the death of his second wife and his remaining daughters. He died in Madrid on 28th May 1805.

Boccherini’s style is completely characteristic of the period in which he lived, the period, that is, of Haydn, rather than that of Mozart or Beethoven. He enjoyed a reputation for his facility as a composer, leaving some 460 or so compositions. A great deal of his music is designed to exploit the technical resources of the cello, in concertos, sonatas, and, particularly, in chamber music for various numbers of instruments, including a remarkable series of works for string quintet with two cellos, the first of which is given a concertante part. His works include twelve cello concertos and more than 32 cello sonatas. The three sonatas included here represent, in the Sonata in C major, the young composer, the writer of descriptive music in his Allegro alla Militaire in the Sonata in G major, with its eighteenth-century battle, its ordered battalions, drum-rolls and the battlefield itself. The recently discovered Sonata in C minor shows the influence of Spain, with a final movement suggesting a Spanish dance.

The composer, keyboard-player, violinist and cellist Giacomo Facco was one of the many Italian musicians working in the eighteenth century at the Spanish court. He served as a member of the Capilla Real and taught the children of Don Luis and Don Carlos, the future King Luis I and King Carlos III. The Balletti a due violoncelli are the first works for cello that we know of that were written in Spain. The six suites were written about 1723 with the two cellos treated as a duo, an unusual procedure at this period

A cellist in the Capilla Real between 1734 and 1783, Domenico Porretti enjoyed a considerable reputation as a player and was much admired by the famous singer Farinelli. He seems to have written 24 cello concertos and a work for four cellos mentioned by Padre Antonio Soler, the whereabouts of all of which are unknown. The sonata included here was published very recently and was found in the collection of scores at the castle of Schönborn-Wiesentheit in Germany. Porretti was the father of Joaquina, Boccherini’s second wife.

First cellist at the Convent of the Incarnation and of the Duke of Osuna, Pablo Vidal served in the Casa de Osuna orchestra directed by Boccherini and lived in Madrid at Leganitos No.22, 4º Principal. Otherwise we know relatively little about him. He offered two cellos for sale in the Diario de Madrid on 15th April 1796 and also announced the sale of a concerto of his, with a Cello Method advertised eight days later. In September 1798 he announced in the Gaceta a work called Arpegio Armónico de violonchelo y bajo (Harmonic Arpeggio for Cello and Bass), the source of the present Andante gracioso.

Josep Bassal and Keith Anderson


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