Luigi Boccherini

Italian composer and cellist (Lucca, 1743 – Madrid, 1805)

Luigi Boccherini was a cellist and a composer and one of the first ambassadors of the Italian cello school to combine expressivity and instrumental virtuosity.

Boccherini was the son of Léopold Boccherini, the first double bass to be nominated as a soloist of the Capella Palatina. As his brothers and sisters did, he started to learn to cello as the age of 5 with his father. He carried on his education with Francesco Vanucci, Kapellmeister of the San Martino Cathedral. In 1757, father and son were hired by the orchestra of the Vienna Imperial Theatre

With Filipo Manfredi, Pietro Nardini and Giuseppe Cambini, Boccherini took on a European tourn. In France, he presented his pieces at the Concert Spirituel where he met François-Joseph Gossec and Pierre Gaviniès. In Madrid, while serving different courts - under the protection of the Luis of Spain, of Frederick William II of Prussia, of the duchess María Josefa Pimentel - Boccherini composed the majority of his chamber music pieces.

Virtuoso cellist, Boccherini participated enormously to the growing fame of the instrument by composing quintets for violins, violas and two cellos, concertos and sonatas. He carried on exploring the playing with double strings initiated by his predecessors and unveiled new prospects regarding the dynamic and the instrumental effects that were only used for violin at the time. He also developed the technique of the instrument by using the position of the thumb to increase the ambitus and used the treble key in cello partitions, used once again only for violin at the time. This use allowed to develop the high-pitched repertoire of the cello.

Six landmark dates in the life of Luigi Boccherini 

1765: met Sammartini in Pavia and Cremona
20th of March 1768: first public concert in Paris at the Tuileries
1771: married Clementina Pelicho
1787: second marriage with Maria Porreti
1796: agreed to sell some pieces to publisher Ignace Pleyel
1801: met Bernhard Romberg

Five key pieces by Luigi Boccherini

1760: Six trios for two violins and cello, op.1
1768: Six sonatas for violin and piano, op.5
1771: Six concertos for big orchestra, op.12
1781: Stabat Mater (revised in 1800)
1799: six quintets with piano op.57

Radio France documentation biography