Luigi Boccherini: String Quintet Op. 42


  • Artist(s): Elisa Baciocchi String Quintet
  • Composer(s): Luigi Boccherini
  • EAN Code: 7.46160911939
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: String Quintet
  • Period: Classical
  • Publication year: 2020
SKU: C00364 Category:

Additional information



EAN Code






Publication year


Boccherini? Of course, the composer of “The Celebrated Minuet”. As happens with many other composers, fame and immortality may be owed to a single masterpiece, which, moreover, may not be the best or most important work he or she composed. “The Celebrated Minuet” features prominently, among others, in a delightful noir film of the Fifties, starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, and in which a bank robbery is plotted and its timing established following the structure of the Minuet – and the instrument cases are used for hiding the money. For this purpose, a string quintet with double-bass is certainly better suited than one with two cellos – a double-bass case is much larger and capacious than a cello case!
Indeed, although Boccherini composed more than 160 Quintets, most of them are scored for a string quintet with two violins, two cellos and a viola. This ensemble, for which Boccherini wrote so much, has not enjoyed comparable popularity within the output of other major composers, and, for this reason, many of Boccherini’s works have never been recorded and are seldom heard on the concert stage.
For him, the choice of this ensemble was not, at first, due to an artistic inspiration or to a particular calling, but rather to very practical reasons: the myth of the composer working within an ebony tower and disregarding all practical issues appeared after Boccherini’s lifetime, and, as all oversimplifications, should better be dispelled. In fact, Boccherini happened to be an excellent cello virtuoso, employed by a prince who had, in his service, a family of musicians (the Fonts, father and three sons) who made up a traditional string quartet; it was necessary, therefore, to integrate himself and his skills within this established musical texture.
This situation had arisen in the 1770s, when Boccherini had entered the employ of Don Luis de Borbón, the Prince of Spain. Born in Lucca, Tuscany, Boccherini had been educated as a cello virtuoso by his father Leopoldo, who was in turn an excellent musician. Together they travelled to Vienna on various occasions, and one of Luigi’s sisters settled there as a famous ballerina; the talent for dancing was shared by several of his siblings, and may account for the charming character of many of Luigi’s Minuets.
Although he was profoundly admired and held in great esteem in his native city, following his father’s death Boccherini left Lucca and embarked on a long concert tour together with a colleague and friend, the violinist Filippo Manfredi. In Paris, they were enthusiastically greeted at the famous concert series known as Concerts spirituels, and they had the opportunity of meeting many of the greatest musicians of the time, including the brothers Duport, both cellists, who would later be employed at the Prussian Court. Here Boccherini had some of his compositions published, and doubtlessly attracted the attention of the musical elite of the era.
Due to his studies, which included teaching from the renowned musician Sammartini, Boccherini had therefore become fully versed in the Italian musical idiom; while in Vienna, he had acquired familiarity with the Austrian tradition; in Paris, not only had he known the French style, but also – by proxy – that of the famous Mannheim orchestra, thanks to the presence in Paris of some of its most distinguished members.
With this rich baggage of knowledge and expertise, both Boccherini and his friend Manfredi accepted the invitation to join the Spanish court in Madrid. However, King Charles III was not enthused by the arrival of the two Italians, possibly due also to the intrigues of one of their fellow countrymen, who was already at Court and probably feared their talent and personality. Moreover, allegedly, Boccherini had replied in a piqued fashion to a misdirected musical criticism voiced by the Prince of the Asturias. Understandably, therefore, his position at the Madrid Court was neither the happiest nor the most solid. Boccherini then welcomed the invitation of the already-mentioned Don Luis, the King’s brother, who wholeheartedly supported him and who asked him to join his own court in Las Arenas. Unfortunately, Las Arenas was very far from being a European capital, and its court hardly provided the cultural stimuli Boccherini was used to.
Here, however, he was requested to compose regularly and exclusively for the Prince (though he was also encouraged to have his works printed), and to this situation, as well as to the presence of the Font Quartet, we owe the immense heritage of his numerous String Quintets. In this period of relative isolation, Boccherini entertained a stimulating correspondence with another great composer who lived in a similar context, i.e. the Austrian maestro Franz Joseph Haydn.
Boccherini’s life, however, was deemed to be shaken by a series of deaths, both within his family (his beloved wife) and in his professional circle (his patron Don Luis). Fortunately, Boccherini obtained a pension allowing him to provide for his five children, and later was given a compositional appointment by Frederick William of Prussia, the music-loving (and cello-playing) monarch. Impressed by Boccherini’s works, upon which he enthusiastically commented in a personal and magnificent letter, the sovereign established a kind of a standing commission with the composer, who therefore started to write expressly for the Prussian monarch. It is likely that the contact with the King had been provided by the Duport brothers, who also, probably, played Boccherini’s works for their patron. Many of these pieces were published by Pleyel, who frequently tried to defraud the composer of his rights, but whose house also disseminated his works throughout the European Continent.
Boccherini’s fortune, however, was not to last forever. Following Frederick William’s death, his successor cut the musician’s salary; furthermore, the composer had contracted tuberculosis and was therefore left dramatically impoverished. His misfortunes also included the death of several of his children, and his last years were marked by deep physical and spiritual suffering.
His immense output is still awaiting thorough and systematic rediscovery, and this Da Vinci Classics album provides an exciting opportunity to appreciate some of the Quintets which Boccherini himself prized most.
Writing in 1789 to his publisher Pleyel, Boccherini did not conceal his pride in the F-minor and G-minor quintets recorded here: “My dear Pleyel, I recommend my Music to you, see that it is well performed before you pass judgement upon it. I particularly recommend to you two quintets which may be found in Op. 42, which are my favourites. I do not know whether they will deserve to be your favourites too, but as you are a real connoisseur of careful work, I hope so”.
Among the reasons for this predilection are certainly some very special aural effects, such as the strascinando sound (i.e. “dragging the bow”) found in the Minuet’s Trio. Another exquisite moment of this Quintet is found in the slow movement, a suave Andante cantabile, where an impressive sequence of tragical chords of diminished seventh is found, striking the hearer as a point of very intense pathos.
As concerns the C-major Quintet, the hypothesis has been advanced that its musical structure might represent a musical icon of the Frederick William’s Palace of Sanssouci, with its stately rooms (evoked by the majestic, processional passages), the lighter and ironic Minuet, and the spirited rondeau, where Boccherini’s imaginative compositional fantasy transforms the most trivial of all musical elements (a C-major scale) into a surprising revelation.
The B-minor Quintet is also known as Quintettino, due to its small scale and to the structure in just two movements. Here too Boccherini’s taste for the refined effects is revealed, in the presence of flautato sounds performed by the lower strings (viola and cellos).
Among the many beautiful passages of the G-minor Quintet, one should certainly number the Larghetto amoroso, in which three of the main components of musical composition are given splendid relief: the touching melodies, the knowledgeable use of harmony, and the elegant counterpoint among the instruments.
The Finale is not, as in most other cases, a rondo-form, but is written in a tense Sonata form, described as “passionate and agitated” by the French musician Baillot who admired Boccherini’s music deeply. The refinement and mastery of the composer are shown by the subdued conclusion of the piece, eschewing grandeur and pomp, and favouring a more delicate style.
Together, these four Quintets represent an excellent sample of Boccherini’s ability, and work as appetizers encouraging the listener to wish for more tasters of this master’s talent; they bring us back in time, revealing to us the beauty, elegance, nobility and passions of the eighteenth century, in a fashion which still speaks deeply to our hearts.

Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio


Elisa Baciocchi String Quintet: The Elisa Baciocchi String Quintet was founded by musicians of the Valenti family, i.e. Claudio, Carlo Alberto and Tommaso Valenti, together with his colleague Carlo Benvenuti. All of the Musicians are active both as concert musicians and pedagogues; in particular, and for a long time, they studied and rediscovered the lesser-known Italian and European chamber repertoires, often offering an original critical version of the works under analysis. They have been nominated ensemble in residence of the “Lucca Chamber Music Festival”. They have also created numerous projects including the reconstruction and performance of the Concerto for viola and orchestra BI552 by A. Rolla, which has been recorded by Claudio and Tommaso Valenti for Tactus label. Carlo Alberto Valenti, Claudio Valenti and Carlo Benvenuti also recorded Luigi Boccherini’s Trios op. 14 for the Christophorus label. For Da Vinci Publishing they recorded a monographic album focusing on the figure of Michael Haydn and including string quartets, some flute quartets and the concerto for viola, harpsichord and strings.


Luigi Boccherini: (i) 1743–67.
Luigi Boccherini (his first baptismal name seems never to have been used), was the third child of the musician Leopoldo Boccherini (1712–66) and his wife Maria Santa, née Prosperi (d Aranjuez, 1776). Leopoldo's activities as a singer, and from 1747 as a second double bass player (contrabassista soprannumerario) in the Cappella Palatina, allowed the family only a modest standard of living in their home town of Lucca. Thanks to intensive parental encouragement, the Boccherini children developed their considerable artistic talents early: Luigi's elder brother Giovanni Gastone (1742–c1800) began a career as a ballet dancer in 1756 (Grossato, 1993, pp.137–8), appearing in Venice, Trieste, Vienna, Rome and elsewhere, and from 1773 was ‘dramatic poet’ (Theatraldichter) at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where he worked with Calzabigi and made a name as librettist for comic operas (including works by Antonio Salieri and Florian Gassmann) and for Joseph Haydn's oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia of 1775. Luigi's elder sister Maria Ester (1740–c1800) became a popular and successful solo dancer while she was still very young at the Burgtheater, where she worked with Gluck. The records also mention her appearances as a prima ballerina in Bologna, Venice and Florence between 1763 and 1777; Salvatore Viganò was the son of her marriage to the dancer and choreographer Onorato Viganò. Luigi's sister Anna Matilde (b 1744) was a ballet dancer in Vienna and his sister Riccarda (b 1747) an opera singer, appearing in Florence in 1777.

Luigi Boccherini probably had his first musical education from his father, as was usual in musicians' families. He attended the archiepiscopal Seminario di S Martino in Lucca as a day pupil from about 1751 to 1753 and received a comprehensive musical training from the maestro di cappella and cellist Domenico Francesco Vannucci, including tuition in singing and cello playing. There is evidence that he sang as a choirboy in Luccan churches and at the Teatro Pubblico in 1753. That autumn he went to study in Rome, where G.B. Costanzi, nicknamed ‘Giovannino del Violoncello’, is said to have been his teacher (Bonaventura, 1931). It is not known exactly how long he remained there, but he was back in Lucca by the summer of 1756, making his début on 4 August 1756 with a cello concerto. Through the sympathetic support of Giacomo Puccini, maestro di cappella of the Cappella Palatina and organist at S Martino, he made a number of further appearances on local occasions involving sacred music and at other festivities. Judging by the fees he commanded, the young Boccherini must already have been regarded as one of the city's outstanding musicians.

In 1757 Boccherini may have accompanied his father and his elder siblings at engagements in Venice and Trieste. In any case, he made a very successful appearance with his father in Vienna in the spring of 1758 as a soloist in the Musikalische Fasten-Accademien at the Burgtheater. Subsequently, they were both engaged as musici in the imperial capital from Easter until the autumn, playing in the orchestra of the German theatre of the imperial court theatre, the Kärntnertortheater, directed by Count Giacomo Durazzo. Most of the music Boccherini played there was ballet music, by Starzer, Gassmann and Gluck. Father and son returned to Vienna for further engagements in the same capacity in 1760–61 and 1763–4, on each occasion for a full theatrical year beginning after Easter. In Vienna, Boccherini encountered strong competition as a soloist; the known sources indicate that he did not appear at the academies of the imperial court as often as other cellists in the city, and there is documentary evidence only for two solo concerts given by him in Vienna in 1763. The sources provide only fragmentary information about Boccherini's other movements between the end of 1758 and 1764. He gave several concerts in Lucca; on 19 March 1761, in Florence, the ‘celebre suonatore di Violoncello’ earned much applause for a concert of music by himself, its mode of composition being described by the diarist who mentions it as being ‘of a completely new kind’ (‘d'un maniera dell tutto nuova’, I-Fas, Ospizio dei Melani Ms.34, p.230); and he appeared in Modena on 7 January 1762. No programmes for his solo concerts are known. Neither Vienna nor the Italian cities could offer a cello virtuoso of the time the means to make a living purely as a soloist. During a period of intensive creativity in 1760 and 1761, Boccherini wrote his first significant compositions, 18 in all: the trios op.1, the quartets op.2 and the duets op.3, all for strings (the opus numbers cited in this discussion are those from Boccherini's own catalogue, which often differ from the published opus numbers; see §5 below). In April 1764 an application Boccherini had made in 1760 for a post as cellist in the Cappella Palatina of Lucca was finally granted. A commission to compose a cantata for the local election festivities (Tasche) in December 1765 in Lucca, shows that he was by then recognized as a composer. In July 1765 he met G.B. Sammartini at festival concerts in Pavia and Cremona, where he and his father were making a well-paid appearance before Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In April 1766 he applied for an orchestral position at the Teatro Alibert in Rome, where he gave a solo performance, but it seems that he was unsuccessful. The story of Boccherini's membership for six months of a string quartet, with the violinists Filippo Manfredi and Pietro Nardini, and Giuseppe Cambini as the viola player (recounted by Cambini in his Nouvelle méthode of c1795 and in AMZ, vi, 1803–4, cols.781–3), may relate to this period, although their alleged study of Haydn's early quartets as well as Boccherini's own does not seem plausible at this date. Soon after the death of his father in August 1766 Boccherini and his friend Manfredi, primo violino of the Cappella Palatina, went to Genoa, where they enjoyed the patronage of the nobility. Boccherini wrote at least one of his two oratorios for the oratorian congregation in that city. In September 1767 they left Genoa together, intending to travel to London; the records show that they were in Nice on 5 October.

Boccherini, Luigi, §1: Life, 1743–67

(ii) 1767–86.
The next stop on their tour was Paris, where Boccherini and Manfredi stayed for six months at the most. There Boccherini came under the patronage of the influential Baron de Bagge (Charles-Ernest Ennal). Boccherini was not an unknown when he arrived, for in April 1767 Jean Baptiste Venier had published his first six string quartets there as op.2, and in July Bailleux issued his first six trios for two violins and cello as op.1; the Mercure de France (April 1768) described these works as ‘very effective’. Paris was the main place of publication for Boccherini's works throughout his lifetime, although the only work published under his own supervision was the series of six trios op.4, g83–8, issued by Venier in March 1768. However, the most important product of his visit to Paris was the set of six sonatas for keyboard with violin accompaniment op.5, which Boccherini dedicated to the amateur keyboard player Anne Louise Boyvin d’Hardancourt Brillon de Jouy, and which was distributed in numerous copies and editions into the 19th century. Boccherini performed at private concerts in the salons of Baron de Bagge, Mme Brillon de Jouy and no doubt other figures of Parisian society. His only recorded public appearance in Paris was at the Concert Spirituel on 20 March 1768, when Manfredi played a violin concerto of his own composition and Boccherini performed one of his own cello sonatas. The Mercure de France praised Boccherini's performance but the Mémoires secrets of Louis-Petit Bachaumont speak of his harsh playing and a lack of harmonious chords (Rothschild, 1962, p.33). After a second appearance by Manfredi on 4 April, the two men left the French capital, but in a change to their original plan they went not to London but to Madrid, having been promised posts there by the Spanish ambassador. By spring 1768 they were playing in the orchestra of an Italian opera company in Aranjuez. The sources mention a performance of Gian Francesco de Majo's Almeria to which Boccherini contributed an interlude aria with cello solo. The ‘Compagnia dell'opera Italiana dei Sitios Reales’ enjoyed the patronage of Crown Prince Carlos, Prince of the Asturias, to whom Boccherini's six trios op.6 of 1769 are dedicated. The company performed in the newly equipped theatres of the royal residences at Aranjuez and La Granja of S Ildefonso, where the Spanish court regularly stayed in spring and summer. There must also have been performances at the Escorial and perhaps at the hunting lodge of El Pardo. The company's base was the castle of Boadillo del Monte near Madrid, the principal home of the Infante Luis Antonio Jaime of Bourbon, younger brother of King Carlos III. Boccherini seems to have been a member of the opera company until 1770, and Manfredi was its first violinist until 1772. In the autumn of 1768 Boccherini was with the company when it visited Valencia, and ate there with Giacomo Casanova, who described him as ‘célèbre’ (The Story of my Life, xi, chapter 4). The orchestra performed Boccherini's first sinfonia concertante (g491) in the ‘academies’ of July 1769 at the Teatro del los Caños del Peral in Madrid, probably with the composer playing the solo cello part in the second movement, and Niccolò Piccinni's La buona figliuola was given in Aranjuez in the spring of 1769 with Boccherini's overture g527, based on the Symphony g490. Boccherini must also have played at many private concerts in the houses of the nobility in Madrid and the Sitios, as the dedication of his series of quartets op.9 (1770) ‘alli Signori Diletanti di Madrid’ indicates. About 1770 he married Clementina Pellicia, second soprano in the opera company; of the six children of this marriage only Boccherini's two sons Luis Marcos and Jose Mariano survived him.

On 8 November 1770 Boccherini entered the service of Don Luis in Aranjuez as compositore e virtuoso di camera at a salary of 14,000 reals (raised to 18,000 in 1772). He had dedicated his quartets op.8 to Don Luis a year before. This relatively well-paid position led to a marked increase in Boccherini's activity as a composer, and he immediately extended the range of genres in which he worked with his quintets and sextets for strings and flute or oboe (the sextets op.16 and ‘quintettini’ op.17, 1773), his series of six symphonies op.12 (1771), and above all his first two series of string quintets, each containing six works, opp.10 and 11 (1771). The string quintet formation with two cellos that Boccherini created seems to have resulted from the fact that Don Luis had a string quartet which with Boccherini himself could become a quintet. During these years most of his compositions were very soon published, the majority of them in Paris. According to a later statement by Boccherini, his annual quota of music written for Don Luis was to comprise three opere, each of six compositions. On Don Luis's morganatic marriage in 1776 he moved his residence first to Velada near Talavera, in 1777 to Cadalso de los Vidrios, and at the end of 1777 to Las Arenas de San Pedro in the Sierra de Gredos, taking Boccherini with him. Don Luis's staff now also included Boccherini's brother Giovanni Gastone.

From the seclusion of Las Arenas, Boccherini made energetic efforts to resume contact with the musical world. He set up a business relationship with the publishing firm of Artaria in Vienna in 1780, and in 1781 entered into a short correspondence about the firm with Joseph Haydn, whom he greatly admired. In 1783, through the Prussian envoy at the Madrid court, he sent compositions written in his own hand to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, an enthusiastic cellist. The prince immediately wrote a personal letter back expressing his lively interest in new works, which Boccherini satisfied by sending some of his earlier compositions to Berlin; however, his conditions of service with Don Luis stipulated that he was not to compose for any other patron at the same time. Perhaps to ensure that he remained in Madrid rather than going to Berlin, Don Luis improved these conditions: under his renewed contract of 17 August 1784, Boccherini received a additional 12,000 reals for the compositions he was to write. If the dates in Boccherini's own catalogue of his works and on the surviving musical manuscripts are correct, his creative production at this period was already considerably reduced. Apart from the six string quintets op.36 of 1784, he apparently wrote no new chamber music for the four years from 1782, and for the three years 1783–5 the only other work mentioned in the records is the villancico g539, a Christmas cantata.

Boccherini's wife and his patron Don Luis both died in 1785. At his petition, King Carlos III granted him an annual pension of 12,000 reals, and he was promised the next place to fall vacant in the Real Capilla. The entry into the Real Capilla in 1787 of another cellist, Francesco Brunetti, then only just 20 years old, may be the origin of the legend that jealous rivalry existed between Boccherini and Francesco Brunetti's father Gaetano, a violinist of high standing in the Real Capilla and music master to the Prince of the Asturias. At the end of 1785 or early in 1786 Boccherini returned to Madrid and was nominally appointed a member of the Real Capilla (músico agregado a la Real Capilla).

Boccherini, Luigi, §1: Life, 1743–67

(iii) 1786–96.
On 21 January 1786 Boccherini was appointed ‘compositeur de notre chambre’ to Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, who was crowned king as Friedrich Wilhelm II in the same year (Rothschild, 1962, p.59). The post carried an annual salary of 1000 talers. Subsequently Boccherini sent his new patron in Prussia 12 instrumental works a year, almost without a break, most of them string quartets and quintets. The only gap in this regular production of works was in 1791; possibly the 12 concert arias g544–55 were composed that year. It now seems unlikely that Boccherini himself ever went to Prussia as earlier biographers assumed (solely on the evidence of a letter of doubtful authenticity from Breslau). More probably, he continued living in Las Arenas near Madrid for the rest of his life. From March 1786 onwards he was also engaged in Madrid at a salary of 1000 reals a month as director de orquesta y compositor by María Josefa Alfonsa Pimentel, Duchess-Countess of Benavente and Duchess of Osuna, a notable patron of music. It is not known whether this appointment continued after the ten months mentioned in the documents, and if so for how long. According to the account of his travels (1834) by the English writer William Beckford, Boccherini was still in the duchess's service at the end of 1787. His music was evidently highly esteemed by the Benavente-Osuna family, for its music library contained a large number of his works from 1761 to 1787 (111 items, including compositions dedicated to the duchess from 1782, 1786 and 1787), and his opera or zarzuela La Clementina was performed at the duchess's palace in Madrid in 1786 (the only other recorded performance was in Valencia in 1796). Beckford tells an amusing story about Boccherini's feeling for dance and sense of musical decorum at a ball given in the Madrid palace of a rich member of the Pacheco family in December 1787. In the same year Boccherini married María del Pilar Joaquina Porretti, daughter of a former first cellist of the Real Capilla who had died four years earlier and who had been admired by Farinelli.

Carlos III died in 1788 and was succeeded by his son Carlos IV, the former Prince of the Asturias. The music-loving monarch, who played the violin himself, established both a chamber music ensemble (músicos de la real cámera, with Gaetano and Francesco Brunetti) and in 1795 the royal chamber orchestra. Boccherini was not a member of either group, but according to tradition he was recruited by the king to perform with him in quartets and symphonies, and suffered from his ‘ear-splitting’ playing (letter, François de Fossa to Louis Picquot, 8 August 1847; see Ophee, 1981). There was still great interest in Boccherini's music in Paris; around 1790–91 he had a private patron there, a man called Boulogne who perished in the chaotic aftermath of the French Revolution (possibly the taffeta manufacturer Jacques-Laurent Boulogne, 1753–94). Boccherini's chamber music was performed at concerts in his house, with Viotti as first violin, as Boccherini wrote to Pleyel on 4 January 1798. According to Boccherini, Boulogne's music library contained transcripts of 110 of his works. Friedrich Wilhelm II owned copies of the same works, also purely for private use.

Boccherini, Luigi, §1: Life, 1743–67

(iv) 1796–1805.
Boccherini's last nine years were troubled by illness and misfortune. His unmarried daughter Joaquina died in 1796 at the age of about 25. In the same year Boccherini accepted an offer from the Parisian publisher Ignace Pleyel, and after brief negotiations sold him 58 works (opp.44 to 54) for 7200 reals. Immediately afterwards, negotiations began for the sale of 110 other works written earlier, and an unhappy chapter in Boccherini's life began. Friedrich Wilhelm II died unexpectedly in 1797. Boccherini petitioned his successor for employment, but on 2 March 1798 the new king refused his application, and declined to grant him a pension. He finally sold the 110 works mentioned above to Pleyel for 9600 reals (letter to Pleyel, 24 December 1798). It was understandable that Pleyel at first hesitated over the purchase, since a number of these works had already been distributed for years by other publishers. However, the letters to Pleyel (reproduced in an appendix to Della Croce, 1988) suggest that Boccherini's generous and honourable behaviour was often answered by suspicion, discourtesy and procrastination; though it is also clear that Pleyel's letters (which do not survive) contained praise of Boccherini's music. Pleyel also dedicated three of his own string quartets (b365–7) to Boccherini in 1803. In any event, in 1798 and 1799, and at longer intervals thereafter, Pleyel's published collections meant the concentrated distribution of works by Boccherini, some of which had lain unknown for as long as 12 years. Pleyel took considerable liberties in his choice of works and the order in which he printed them, thus contributing a good deal to the confusion surrounding the opus numbering of Boccherini's printed compositions. Boccherini's next publisher was Sieber in Paris.

The patronage of the house of Benavente-Osuna came to an end, at the latest, when the duke and duchess moved to Paris in 1799. In 1798–9 Boccherini wrote a dozen arrangements of his own works for guitar, two violins, viola and cello for François de Borgia, Marquis of Benavente (not a member of the same dynasty). At this time he was turning increasingly to vocal music: he wrote the Scena dell'Ines di Castro for the stage by April 1798, and a second opera, Dorval e Virginia, which was performed during the carnival season of 1799–1800 in Turin but is now lost. Of his sacred works, he wrote a Mass (now lost) and a second version of his Stabat mater in 1800, and the Christmas cantata op.63 (now lost) in 1802. In 1799, flattered by reports of the popularity of his works in Paris and hoping for new patronage, Boccherini composed the six piano quintets op.57 with a dedication to the French nation. The invitation to him to become a member of the administrative council of the Paris Conservatoire may have been a response to this dedication; however, Boccherini's great-grandson Alfredo Boccherini said in his biography of the composer that Boccherini declined the post. He finally found a new patron in November 1800 in the person of Lucien Bonaparte, French ambassador in Madrid. Boccherini organized musical performances for him, and continued writing works dedicated to him even after Bonaparte was recalled from Spain in December 1801. On 20 January 1802 Joseph Bonaparte granted Boccherini a pension of 3000 francs a year. Nothing is known about Boccherini's connection with Tsar Aleksandr I of Russia apart from the dedication to him of the Christmas cantata op.63. The composer's grief at the deaths of his two daughters Mariana (b 1782) and Ysabel in 1802, and then of his fourth daughter Maria Teresa and his second wife two years later, must have hastened his death. In the late 1790s he had a friendly paternal relationship with the singer Pierre Garat and the violinist Pierre Rode, whom he is said to have helped with the orchestration of a concerto. He taught the young violinist Alexandre-Jean Boucher how to interpret his works, but there is no evidence that he regularly taught either the cello or composition. Unfortunately, he never wrote a treatise describing what must have been his outstanding cello technique. Musicians of note visited Boccherini in Madrid, including the cellist B.H. Romberg in 1801 and the singer and pianist Sophie Gail in 1803; she found him living in a state of exhaustion in a small apartment consisting of a single room with a gallery (at Calle de Jesus y Maria 5, near the Plaza Tirso de Molina).

Towards the end of his life Boccherini's financial circumstances were modest and his health poor. He seems to have given up composition in 1804, with his unfinished String Quartet op.64 no.2. He died of peritoneal tuberculosis in 1805 and was buried in the church of S Justo y Pastor in Madrid. In 1927 his remains were taken to Lucca and re-buried in the basilica of S Francesco. A second exhumation in 1995 showed that Boccherini was about 1·65 metres tall and of slight build; the middle finger of his left hand was chronically inflamed, from playing the cello, and he suffered from epicondylitis of the left arm and elbow and arthrosis of the cervical vertebrae. An inventory of his possessions in his own hand, drawn up in 1787, indicates that he owned two Stradivari cellos.

Video Preview