Luigi Boccherini
(1743-1805)

Luigi Boccherini was born on February 19, 1743. The son of a professional musician and double bassist, Luigi began his musical studies with his father at the age of five. Cello was his chosen instrument and as a result, would be featured prominently in his future compositions. When he was nine, Boccherini studied with Abbé Vanucci, music director of the cathedral at San Martino. After his first solo appearance, it was determined that such a talent needed more than his hometown could give. He was sent to Rome to study with G. B. Costanzi, music director of St. Peter's Basilica. One year later, both he and his father were hired by the Imperial Theater Orchestra in Vienna.

Boccherini began composing early and his first compositions were published when he was just 17 years old. In 1765, Boccherini wrote his first string quartet, a genre for which he would become famous. It was about this time that he began to suffer from ill health, which would plague him the rest of his life.

His father died in 1766 and Boccherini soon after formed a partnership with the famous violinist, Filippo Manfredi. The duo went on tour through Italy and France, finally ending up in Paris where Boccherini wrote and published a number of works including a set of six string quartets. In 1769, the two musicians went to Spain where Boccherini became a composer to the court of Archbishop Don Luis. Now earning enough money to sustain himself, Boccherini wrote prolifically, exploring new instrumentation and expanding his string quartets to include an additional cello.

He married soprano Clementina Pellicia in 1770, however their marriage was cut short when she passed away in 1785. His patron, Don Luis, died that same year. Without an income, he petitioned King Charles and was granted a pension. One year later he was appointed as "Composer of Our Court" by Friedrich Wilhelm, the future King of Prussia. He remained in Spain while writing most of his music for Wilhelm. During this period he also composed his only opera, or zarzuela, titled La Clementina.

Boccherini remarried in 1787. He entered into a partnership with publisher, composer and famous piano manufacturer Ignaz Pleyel. Pleyel was very complimentary of Boccherini's works and published them, but also managed to cheat Boccherini out of much of his income. In addition, Pleyel’s reorganization of the works led to confusion as it varied greatly from Boccherini’s own cataloguing system.

By 1803, Boccherini was living in a distressed condition, emotional and financial hardships taking their toll. Two of his daughters died in 1802 within days of each other from an epidemic. In 1804 his wife and remaining daughter also died. Boccherini passed away on May 28, 1805. He was buried in the Church of San Justo in Madrid. His remains were moved in 1927 to the Basilica of san Francesco in his hometown of Lucca.

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