BOCCHERINI: Cello Concertos, Nos. 9-12

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Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805): Cello Concertos 3

Concertos, Nos. 9-12

Luigi Boccherini was born in Tuscany in 1743, in thebeautiful old walled town of Lucca and died in Madridin 1805. His was a cultured family. His elder brotherGiovanni Gastone, distinguished as a dancer andchoreographer, was also a poet and wrote opera librettifor Salieri, among others, and the text of Joseph Haydn'soratorio Il ritorno di Tobia. His sister, also a dancer inVienna, married Onorato Vigan?? and was the mother ofthe famous dancer and choreographer Salvatore Vigan??.

His father was a professional double bass player andLuigi Boccherini himself made his debut as a cellist atthe age of thirteen. In 1757 he went to study in Rome buthad only been there a few months when both he and hisfather were summoned to Vienna to play in the courtorchestra. Although barely fifteen years old, hisperformance apparently made a deep impression on theViennese musical establishment which suggests that thisreportedly very amiable and affable young virtuoso hadplenty of opportunity to shine as a soloist in concertosand in chamber music.

From this time onwards Boccherini's life was a verybusy one and involved much travelling. He returned toLucca on various occasions, finally, in 1764, taking up aposition there in the musical establishment and retaininghis connection there for the following three years. In1766 he embarked on an extended concert tour with theLucca violinist Filipo Manfredi, reaching Paris in 1767.

Here he had some of his works published and appearedwith Manfredi at the Concert Spirituel, among otherengagements. It was seemingly in 1768 that Boccheriniand Manfredi travelled to Madrid, very probably withthe promise of enthusiastic patronage from the Spanishcourt. Here Boccherini's principal patron was theSpanish Infante Don Luis for whom he wrote many newworks. In the circumstances in which he found himselfhe was able to continue his particular interest in chambermusic, as shown in his first Paris publications,embarking on his famous series of string quintets, with aconcertante first cello part.

Boccherini followed the Infante Don Luis to Avila,after the latter's marriage earned official disapproval,but after the death of the Infante in 1785 he was granteda pension of half his salary by the King. In 1786 he wasappointed chamber composer to the heir to the Prussianthrone, an enthusiastic amateur cellist, who in thefollowing year succeeded his uncle as FriedrichWilhelm II of Prussia. There is no record, however, ofany visit by Boccherini to the court in Berlin. He soughta renewal of his appointment in 1798, after the death ofthe king, but this was not granted. According toBoccherini family tradition he was offered a teachingposition at the new Conservatoire in Paris, where hismusic enjoyed considerable esteem, but graciouslydeclined the offer. In Madrid, however, he had for someyears enjoyed the support of private patrons and wasemployed by the French ambassador to Spain, LucienBonaparte, who reached Madrid late in 1800.

Throughout his life Boccherini pursued his concertcareer with enormous energy and at the same time wrotea quite unbelievable amount of music. In his last years,no longer playing but still composing, he appeared to beliving in reduced circumstances, in some financialdifficulties and no doubt suffering from the recent deathof his second wife and also of two daughters. He died in1805.

Boccherini made an incomplete thematic catalogueof his own works but this was destroyed in the turmoilof the Spanish civil war. Only in 1969 did Yves Gerardpublish a new catalogue of the complete oeuvre, listingeleven concertos. The twelfth cello concerto was onlydiscovered in 1987 in a library in Naples. The twelveknown cello concertos are all probably quite youthfulworks, written before he settled in Madrid. These worksexploit virtuoso technique, a prominent feature of whichis the use of extremely fast passage-work in the veryhighest registers of the instrument, sometimes withadditional double-stopping to provide the performerwith even greater difficulties.

Concerto No. 9 in B flat major starts with an Allegromoderato that is a little capricious in form. The themesat the outset are presented in the usual manner by theorchestral tutti and then by the solo cello. After thebriefest of modulatory development sections the maintheme is brought back for the recapitulation. Unusually,however, this is interrupted early on by some newthemes presented in various keys before the earlierthemes weave their way back into the orchestral texturefor the conventional recapitulation.

The almost hymnic Handelian opening of thefollowing Andante grazioso contrasts effectively withthe hectic passagework of the preceding movement. Theamiable tune of the final Rondo is set against variousepisodic themes, notably one with an almost cluckinghen-like two-note figure which sends the solo cellosoaring up to a remarkably high sustained note followedby a dramatic pause. This theatrical gesture, presentedtwice in the course of the movement, plays an importantpart in articulating the clear contrasts of material in thiswell-crafted finale.

Concerto No. 10 in D major is on a relatively grandscale, its first movement sumptuous in melodic content,and with some of the broader thematic gestures whichhelp to support the larger architecture. A characteristicof this whole work, which is immediately striking in theopening tutti, is the prominence given to the oboes andhorns which, with the bassoon, often accompany thesolo cello instead of the usual upper strings. TheAndante lentarello in D minor begins with a touchingtheme on orchestral strings which is then repeated on thewind instruments while the solo cello enterssurreptitiously, for a brief moment more in the spirit ofchamber music. In the Finale the orchestra really comesinto its own. The two orchestral tuttis which frame thesonata-form structure feature characteristic horn callsechoed by two oboes in a most colourful fashion. Thisattractive concerto shows Boccherini experimentingwith orchestral sounds and exploring new relationshipsbetween the orchestra and the soloist.

Among all Boccherini's works the Concerto No. 11in C major is unique in that he scores it for solo cello andtwo oboes, two trumpets, strings and, most unusually, nohorns. This gives a bright, almost ceremonial quality tothe sound and influences the way Boccherini writes, aswe hear in the opening tutti with its clear harmonies andslower harmonic rhythm. The Largo cantabile is alsoextremely unusual. It is scored for unaccompanied cellobut with two brief orchestral passages to begin and closethe movement. The long central cello section features adouble-stopping technique whereby a florid melody isaccompanied by pulsing quavers in the lower part, avery demanding if less extrovert kind of virtuosity. TheFinale, Allegro comodo, is another free version of whatwe might be tempted to call sonata form. Its two mainthemes for orchestra and cello respectively do travelthrough various keys in the middle or developmentsection, but when we expect a recapitulation in the tonickey Boccherini shifts into C minor with quite newmaterial, only returning briefly to a fragment of theearlier themes right at the very end of the work to roundeverything off in C major.

The recently discovered Concerto No. 12 in E flatmajor, the first modern performance of which was givenin Vienna in 1987, may be of a later date (possibly 1772)than the other concertos. Whether this be the case or not,the music itself, less encumbered with ornamental detail,hints at a movement away from rococo mannerismstowards the clearer lines of the later classical style. Inthe first movement Boccherini achieves a longer archingphrase articulated through internal development of thesimpler melodic line. The c
Item number 8557589
Barcode 747313258925
Release date 11/01/2004
Category Cello
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Wallfisch, Raphael
Wallfisch, Raphael
Composers Boccherini, Luigi
Boccherini, Luigi
Conductors Ward, Nicholas
Ward, Nicholas
Orchestras Northern Chamber Orchestra
Northern Chamber Orchestra
Disc: 1
Cello Concerto No. 12 in E flat major, G. deest
1 I. Allegro moderato
2 II. Andante grazioso
3 III. Rondo: Allegro
4 I. Allegro moderato
5 II. Andante lentarello
6 III. Allegro e con moto
7 I. Maestoso
8 II. Largo cantabile
9 III. Allegro comodo
10 I. Maestoso
11 II. Largo
12 III. Allegro
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