Born: 1743

Died: 1805

Luigi Boccherini

A biography

Who knows Boccherini’s name today for any reason other than his celebrated Minuet, used in films and television possibly more than any other piece as a shorthand way of conveying 18th-century elegance and refinement? Many will remember it being used to marvellous effect in the 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers. The Minuet (in A major) comes from a String Quintet in E, published about 1775. He also wrote a further 124 string quintets, 102 string quartets and an enormous pile of other chamber music. Boccherini was highly regarded in his day, so much so that he was said to be ‘the wife of Haydn’ (musically speaking, of course!). Much of what he wrote is very fine and ought to be better known (his elegant piano quintets, for example, his eight surviving guitar quintets – No 4 in D has an infectiously lively Fandango finale – and the once-popular Cello Sonata in A). He was a cello virtuoso; of his concertos for the instrument, there’s a fine one in G (G480 from 1770) but that most often heard is one in a souped-up arrangement by the 19th-century cellist Friedrich Grützmacher (Concerto in B flat, G482), a Romantic conflation of two different works.

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