BOCCHERINI: 3 Cello Sonatas / FACCO: Balletto in C major / PORRETTI: Cello Sonata in D major (Josep Bassal/ Wolfgang Lehner) (Naxos: 8.557795)
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Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
The Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini wasborn in Lucca in 1743, the son of a double-bass player.
His family was distinguished not only in music but alsoboasted poets and dancers among its members. Hiselder brother Giovanni Gastone, born in 1742, wasboth dancer and poet, the author of the text of Haydn'sIl ritorno di Tobia and of the libretti of some earlierstage works of the Vienna court composer, AntonioSalieri. He later became official poet of the Coliseo delos Canos del Peral in Madrid, a theatre to the concertsin which Boccherini had contributed music. His sisterMaria Ester was a dancer and married Onorato Vigan??,a distinguished dancer and choreographer. Her son,Salvatore Vigan??, who studied composition withBoccherini, occupies a position of considerableimportance in the history of ballet.
By the age of thirteen Boccherini was appearing inconcerts as a cellist. In 1757 he went with his fatherand older brother and sister to Venice and Trieste andthe following year he appeared with his father inVienna, where they were both invited to join the courtorchestra, returning to Vienna for two further seasonsin 1760-1761 and 1763-1764. In the interveningperiods he appeared in Lucca and in Florence. In 1764Boccherini succeeded in achieving appointment as acellist in the Cappella Palatina in Lucca and undertookengagements in Padua and Cremona, among otherplaces. In 1766 he joined with his fellow-townsman,the violinist Manfredi, leader of the Cappella Palatina,the latter's teacher Nardini and the composer andviola-player Cambini in serious study and performanceof the quartets of Haydn and of Boccherini's own earlyquartets, and after the death of his father in August ofthat year he went with Manfredi to Genoa, where heseems to have composed at least one of his twooratorios for the Oratorians. In the autumn of 1767 heset out from Genoa with Manfredi, with the intentionof travelling to London, staying first in Nice and thenfor some six months in Paris, where they wonconsiderable success. Here Boccherini's first set of sixstring quartets was published, and sets of string trios.
In France Boccherini and Manfredi won considerablesuccess and Boccherini himself also continued hiswork as a composer, in addition to his performances asa virtuoso. In 1768 the pair left for Spain, appearingfirst at court with an Italian opera company.
Establishing himself in Madrid, Boccherini wasappointed composer and virtuoso di camera to theInfante Don Luis, younger brother of King Carlos III,after a cooler reception from the King and the Prince ofthe Asturias, his heir. Part of the following period hespent in Madrid and part at the Palace of Arenas de SanPedro in the province of Avila, where the Infanteretired after a morganatic marriage. Members of theFont family were employed by the Prince as a stringquartet, for which Boccherini wrote quartets and withwhom he performed his own string quintets. Herenewed his association with Francisco Font in lateryears. 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 aposition in the Real Capilla that was not fulfilled. Hefound employment, however, with the Benavente-Osuna family in Madrid, directing the orchestra of theCountess-Duchess and providing music for her salon.
Here he was one of a distinguished internationalcompany that included his friend, the painter Goya. Atthe same time he was appointed court composer toFriedrich Wilhelm, nephew of Frederick the Great,who succeeded his uncle as King of Prussia in 1787. Inthis latter position he provided the cello-playing kingwith new compositions under the same kind ofexclusive arrangement as that which he had earlierenjoyed with Don Luis. There is, however, no evidencethat Boccherini ever spent any time in Prussia. Afterthe death of King Carlos III in 1788, the new king,Carlos IV, established a chamber ensemble and in 1795a chamber orchestra, in neither of which Boccheriniwas involved. With the unexpected death of FriedrichWilhelm II in 1797 Boccherini's employment therecame to an end, when his request for a continuation ofhis position and a pension was refused, while theBenavente-Osuna family moved to Paris in 1799.
Boccherini received support from Lucien Bonaparte,the French ambassador, and remained busy to the endof his life, although visitors reported that he lived in allthe appearance of poverty, now without any substantialpatronage after Lucien Bonaparte's return to Paris andsaddened by the death of his second wife and hisremaining daughters. He died in Madrid on 28th May1805.
Boccherini's style is completely characteristic ofthe period in which he lived, the period, that is, ofHaydn, rather than that of Mozart or Beethoven. Heenjoyed a reputation for his facility as a composer,leaving some 460 or so compositions. A great deal ofhis music is designed to exploit the technical resourcesof the cello, in concertos, sonatas, and, particularly, inchamber music for various numbers of instruments,including a remarkable series of works for stringquintet with two cellos, the first of which is given aconcertante part. His works include twelve celloconcertos and more than 32 cello sonatas. The threesonatas included here represent, in the Sonata in Cmajor, the young composer, the writer of descriptivemusic in his Allegro alla Militaire in the Sonata in Gmajor, with its eighteenth-century battle, its orderedbattalions, drum-rolls and the battlefield itself. Therecently discovered Sonata in C minor shows theinfluence of Spain, with a final movement suggesting aSpanish dance.
The composer, keyboard-player, violinist andcellist Giacomo Facco was one of the many Italianmusicians working in the eighteenth century at theSpanish court. He served as a member of the CapillaReal and taught the children of Don Luis and DonCarlos, the future King Luis I and King Carlos III. TheBalletti a due violoncelli are the first works for cellothat we know of that were written in Spain. The sixsuites were written about 1723 with the two cellostreated as a duo, an unusual procedure at this periodA cellist in the Capilla Real between 1734 and1783, Domenico Porretti enjoyed a considerablereputation as a player and was much admired by thefamous singer Farinelli. He seems to have written 24cello concertos and a work for four cellos mentionedby Padre Antonio Soler, the whereabouts of all ofwhich are unknown. The sonata included here waspublished very recently and was found in the collectionof scores at the castle of Schonborn-Wiesentheit inGermany. Porretti was the father of Joaquina,Boccherini's second wife.
First cellist at the Convent of the Incarnation andof the Duke of Osuna, Pablo Vidal served in the Casade Osuna orchestra directed by Boccherini and lived inMadrid at Leganitos No.22, 4?? Principal. Otherwise weknow relatively little about him. He offered two cellosfor sale in the Diario de Madrid on 15th April 1796 andalso announced the sale of a concerto of his, with aCello Method advertised eight days later. InSeptember 1798 he announced in the Gaceta a workcalled Arpegio Armonico de violonchelo y bajo(Harmonic Arpeggio for Cello and Bass), the sourceof the present Andante gracioso.Josep Bassal and Keith Anderson