Barbara Frittoli, I Virtuosi del Teatro alla Scala, Mattia Rondelli
Barbara Frittoli, I Virtuosi del Teatro alla Scala, Mattia Rondelli
The Stabat Mater is one of the most touching outputs of Catholic literature through the ages. It is the impressive result of the encounter between Marian piety and devotion, the universal feelings bound to maternity, birth, and the innocent suffering of children, and the literary forms born from the intertwining of Latin culture, new vernacular poetry, and music.
The Stabat Mater is one among the thousands (!) Sequences written in the late Middle Ages and up to the Council of Trent. While it is a false myth of musical historiography that the Council of Trent “banned” the Sequences, actually the Council admitted just a handful of them within the official worship of the Catholic Church. Sequences had been originally created as added words, to be sung one syllable per note, over Gregorian plainchant tunes (particularly on the long melismas of the Alleluias). Different from classical Latin poetry, they had normally rhymed lines and a metrics based on accentuation rather than on quantity. In this they showed kinship with the early outputs of vernacular poetry. Jacopone da Todi, to whom the Stabat Mater is traditionally ascribed, was in fact the author of beautiful song lyrics, called “laude”, in the early Italian vernacular; in one of them, Il Pianto della Madonna, he expresses feelings and moods which are very close to those found in the Stabat Mater. The stimulus for the creation of this Sequence comes from a Scriptural element, i.e. the mention, found in St John’s Gospel, that Mary, Jesus’ Mother, “stood” by the Cross during her Son’s agony. This brief remark is developed by Jacopone into a prolonged contemplation; seemingly, it regards Mary, but, going deeper, it is a contemplation of Christ with the eyes of his Mother. In other words, the faithful’s gaze is oriented to Mary only in order for her to direct it to Christ. Jacopone’s Sequence is a masterpiece of poetry, mystics and contemplation, and, as hinted above, it is grounded on the Scriptural Word, even though it expands on it in a personal fashion. Still, this Sequence was initially among the thousands which were discarded after the Council of Trent, to be reinstated in the official worship only in the eighteenth century, nearly one and a half century after Trent. The Sequence found its place in liturgy particularly on the occasion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which follows the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September (14th and 15th respectively). It could also be employed during Passiontide, and it is used until present-day, for instance, in the pious exercise of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday and on other Fridays in Lent. Due to its Marian content (thought, as said before, Christ is the true “protagonist” of the lyrics), this Sequence could not be adopted by Christians from other confessions than the Catholic Church. For a different example, the Victimae paschali (Easter Sequence) was transformed into a German Chorale by Martin Luther (Christ lag in Todesbanden), after an earlier German version already adopted by Catholics prior to the Reformation. Moreover, the melody of this Easter Sequence found its way even within the Genevan Psalter, which was normally based on newly-composed tunes. Notwithstanding this confessional issue, composers from outside Catholicism were keen to applaud the magnificent setting realized by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi shortly before his untimely death, at barely 25. Even Johann Sebastian Bach, who is rightly considered as the quintessential Lutheran composer, was enthused by this masterpiece written by a musician who was abundantly his junior: to the point that he transformed Pergolesi’s Stabat into a German Psalm (Tilge, Höchster) in order to make it suited for the official worship of the Lutheran Church.
Nonetheless, appreciation of Pergolesi’s setting was not universal. Some, particularly from the Northern countries, reproached it for what was perceived as an “operatic” style. This criticism is not fully unjustified, since Pergolesi in fact does draw from the rhetoric repertoire derived from opera; still, these means are considered as mere resources in the service of an important message. Moreover, a work contemplating a mother’s immense sorrow is so deeply human, so fully ingrained in the most intimate human experiences, that it cannot be neutral or detached. Thus, most composers who tried their hand in the Stabat Mater, mainly after its reinstatement in the Church’s worship, agreed with Pergolesi that a hyper-expressive language should be employed. This is also the case with Boccherini’s setting, recorded here, which draws abundantly from the rich chest of eighteenth-century opera, while, at the same time, preserving a sobriety quite unlike the language normally found on the operatic stage. This combination of intensity and restraint is rather unique, and contributes to the emotional power of this splendid work.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2023
The immediacy, awesome power and the heart-rending intensity of the maternal sorrows that makes the passion of Christ so emotionally involving are certainly not beyond the grasp of a versatile musician and composer like Luigi Boccherini, better known to the wider public for his prolific instrumental output then for his vocal works. In 1781, completely undeterred by the existence of the masterpiece by the same name written by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Boccherini unveiled the first version of his successful Sequence to the Virgin Mary, the Stabat Mater. The words of this hymn have been ascribed to Jacopone da Todi, and it is made up of 20 stanzas of three lines each, the first and second of which rhyme with one another. In his musical setting, the composer divides the work into 11 movements from a very essential instrumentation, namely solo soprano and string quintet. His treatment of the vocal part reveals his careful reading of the late Latin text in which three fundamental “voices” converge: The narrative one [the grieving mother stood weeping by the cross on which her son was suspended], the reflective one, when the author interrupts the story and addresses humanity as a whole [Who is that would not weep, seeing Christ‘s mother in such agony?] and the invocative one in the form of a prayer to the Virgin Mary [Oh mother, fountain of love, make me feel the power of sorrow, that I may grieve with you]. The solutions adopted by Boccherini wonderfully express this plurality of stylistics registers. Indeed, in the narrative sections a somewhat restrained melodic intonation prevails, adhering to the metrics of the words. At times it appropriates the gestures of music rhetorics, to effectively emphasize expressions of particularly moving intensity [such as, for example, the descending melody on the “pendebat” in the opening movement]. The reflective parts, on the other hand, where the Umbrian Monk turns his consternation into a universal feeling (O quam tristis; Quis est homo; Quis non posset), are set as recitatives. These, while undeniably reflecting the contemporaneous operatic language, may also be assimilated to the ancient practice of “cantillation”, often used in worship to ensure a better understanding of the Word. Finally, in the longest section which begins with the sixth stanza [Eja Mater] – a movement where the splendid solo cello stands out, imitating the human voice – the composer uses melodic expansions (Virgo virginun; fac ut portem) to justify the hymn-like nature that the passage assumes, indicating a real invocation to the Virgin Mary. The music emphasizes and strengthens this richness of accents; thematic ideas circulate between the parts and intertwine with the vocal line, using the technique of imitation. Preludes and postludes frame the arias, bringing coherence and unity to the work through harmonic, tonal and thematic correspondences. This is exemplified by the seventh movement, Tui nati, whose three stanzas are incorporated into a kind of A-B-A1 tripartite aria comprising an Allegro vivo, an Adagio – on the words “Fac me vere tecum flere crucifixo condolere” – and once more an “Allegro come prima” rehearsing motifs from section A and leading to a subsequent fugal passage concluded by an instrumental coda. The restrained intensity of final movement, Quando corpus (an Andante lento in the key of F minor which, together with C minor, is found throughout the work) confirms that this Stabat fully belongs in the sacred repertoire. A further and definitive confirmation of this is provided by the Recitativo e Aria accademica, “Misera, dove son… ah! Non sono io che parlo“, G.548, for soprano and Orchestra, written in an unmistakably operatic style. A long, accompanied recitative sets the scene for the aria expressing the distressed state of mind of Fulvia, the female protagonist of “Ezio”, an opera on a libretto by Metastasio (1728). She feels daughterly love for her culpable father despite the fact that he stands between her and her passionate love. Her mindstate is emphasized by the allegro agitato Assai tempo and the gloomy key of D minor. The 15 Arie Accademiche are concerto arias composed by Boccherini between 1786 and 1797; all of them are set to lyrics by Metastasio, as confirmed by Christian Speck’s critical edition, which is currently in print. Among them, G. 548 is the only one seamlessly composed and with no “dal segno” repeats; instead, the reprise builds up to the end through progressive intensification. However, the reappearance of section B in F Major after the climax likens it, though not in every way, to another musical form typical of the era, known as “durchkomponiert”, identifiable, for example in Mozart’s contemporaneous aria by the same title. The orchestration reflects Boccherini’s symphonic style which can be noted later on is Symphony No. 18 Op. 35 nr. 4, G.512. This is structured in three movements: an Allegro Assai in F major followed by an Andantino for strings only in B flat and an Allegro vivace, once again in F, comprising a Tempo di Minuetto. The general melodic structure is carried by the strings. It responds with thematic abundance and variety to the principle of motivic elaboration found at the foundations of the dialectic concept of the Sonata form. The wind section, on the other hand, never goes beyond the pairs of oboes and horns, proceeding in parallel, mainly providing a timbral filling. Boccherini used the first Movement of the symphony as an instrumental introduction in his 1800 revision of the Stabat Mater, where the vocal part is set for three voices reappears with some alterations including an impressive finale. While these changes, probably dictated by audience tastes, do not affect the overall structure of the composition, they do confer an artificial flavour, at odds with its original conception in 1781, which had an aura of genuine, inner faith. Indeed, the solo voice communicates the message of prayer with greater intensity, while the masterly balance of monody and polyphony which comes across to the listener succeeds with the rare efficacy in expressing the implacable contradiction found in hymn, namely the suffering and tragedy of death accepted for the sake of eternal life.
Maria Melchionne © 2023
Barbara Frittoli is widely regarded as one of the foremost Italian sopranos before the public today. In opera she is internationally acclaimed for her interpretations of the great works of Mozart (e.g. Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Idomeneo) and Verdi (Otello, Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra and Messa da Requiem ). Born in Milan, she graduated with highest honors from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory. Today, she is as much in demand for opera as she is for symphonic works and recital. Highlights of Barbara Frittoli’s 2007-08 included Cosi fan tutte with Maestro Riccardo Muti at the Vienna State Opera, a new production of Suor Angelica with Maestro Riccardo Chailly at La Scala and Le Nozze di Figaro at the London’s Royal Opera. Concert performances took her to Chicago, Tel Aviv, London, Berlin, Moscow, London and Vienna. In future seasons she is scheduled to return to the Metropolitan Opera for Don Giovanni and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, a role which served as her San Francisco Opera debut in autumn 2008. Among her career’s most memorable performances were Otello at the Salzburg Easter Festival (1996) and, again, at the Teatro Regio di Torino (1997) under Claudio Abbado; Così fan tutte (1994) at the Wiener Staatsoper, the Ravenna Festival (1998) under Riccardo Muti and Covent Garden (1998) with Colin Davis; Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (1997) with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado; Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival with Lorin Maazel (1999); a live world telecast of Turandot (Liù) from the Forbidden City (1998) with Zubin Mehta; and Otello at the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine, a role which also served as her Bayerische Staatsoper debut with Zubin Mehta. At La Scala, Ms. Frittoli has enjoyed the honor of opening the new season in December 1998, 2000 and 2002 respectively as Leonora in Il Trovatore, Desdemona in Otello and Anaide in Mosè in Egitto, all under the baton of Riccardo Muti.
concertmaster: Andrea Pecolo
cello solo: Martina Lopez
Mattia Rondelli is an Italian conductor who has already appeared on the international scene. His engagements have brought him to some of the most important venues in Italy, Switzerland, UK, Russia, USA, and China. His versatility as a conductor has led to performances of works from both the operatic and orchestral repertoire, wildly ranging from early music to the music of today. He has obtained sensational achievements due to his meeting with Valery Gergiev and the collaboration with Mariinsky eatre. Mattia Rondelli debuted at Mariinsky Concert Hall in 2011 White Nights Festival. at first occasion represented the modern premiere of some sacral pages by Giuseppe Sarti, featuring important soloists as Ekaterina Semenchuk and Barbara Frittoli. He brought also for the first time on Mariinsky stage Verdi Quartet and Quattro Pezzi Sacri. His work of research and performance on Giuseppe Sarti’s music has brought him either important artistic collaborations and academic cooperation with UDK-Berlin and Jerusalem Academy of Music. Essays of these conferences has been published on Forum Musikwissenschaft. In this last period Mattia Rondelli has started a solid collaboration with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, either as musical assistant and for a new research project.
In 2014 he invented, fundraised and organized an event meant to underline the Social value of Music: this was also the occasion in which he conducted at the Milan Conservatory Hall the Italian premiére of Sarti’s Gloria with ‘Accademia del Teatro alla Scala’ orchestra and soloists and Ars Cantica Choir. Mattia Rondelli is a regular guest conductor at MiTo SettembreMusica Festival, Virtuosi del Teatro alla Scala, Turin Teatro Regio, La Fenice Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonia, Chicago Philharmonic, National Opera of Beijing, Arturo Toscanini Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, Orchestra del Festival “Settimane Musicali di Stresa”, Marche Philharmonic Orchestra, Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, Turin Philharmonic Orchestra, Rome Youth Orchestra, Orchestra Cantelli, Accademia di S. Giorgio (Venice), Ars Cantica Choir. With the National Opera Orchestra of Beijing he performed at a gala in honor of the President of the Italian Republic.
After his piano studies, Mattia Rondelli earned degrees in both orchestral conducting and music composition from the Milan Conservatory of Music. He then specialized for years with Donato Renzetti, Piero Bellugi and Jorma Panula. As an assistant, he worked at opera productions with Daniele Callegari and Gianandrea Noseda. In addition to his musical education, he holds a degree from the Law School of the Catholic University of Milan.
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
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
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
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.