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Star cellist/composer Boccherini has a birthday today, Feb. 19

Star cellist/composer Boccherini has a birthday today, Feb. 19 featured image

An elegant high tea is the kind of setting you’d often hear a certain little Menuet by Boccherini


Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini was a rock star cellist in his day; he could play violin pieces on the cello at pitch, which involves some crazy moves and an amazing ear. He was also a composer whose music was courtly and galante, meaning a simpler style, post-fancy Baroque; more melody and accompaniment over several voices layered over each other. Clarity between soloist vs. ensemble was important, along with pleasing, approachable melodies. Cellists in chamber ensembles also have Boccherini to thank for elevating the instrument’s presence in the string quartet form. Haydn, who perfected the string quartet, often gave the cellist a simple accompaniment role. Boccherini  added some “oomph” with more exciting and demanding parts. He also beefed up the deeper range of chamber ensembles by writing for two violins, viola, and two cellos, as opposed to the standard two violins, two violas, with one cello.

While he was famous in his day for his cello works, which were revived and re-gained popularity early in the 20th century, he is best remembered for a particularly tuneful Menuet from the String Quartet in E major, Op. 11 No. 5. I call this “the brunch piece” because in television or film during a classy brunch scene or wedding, you’ll always hear this piece in the background.

I chose this video presented by the Chester Music Festival of Boccherini’s Menuet from his String Quartet. I like it because instead of the usual leisurely tempo, this goes at a fair clip, which gives the Menuet delightful buoyancy.

Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini was born February 19, 1743 in Lucca, Italy, and died May 28, 1805 in Madrid, Spain.

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