Famous Italian composer and violoncellist. Born at Lucca. He showed great genius for music at a very early age and his first teacher was his father, who was himself a good musician. Very soon he was placed under the Abbe Vannucci and made such rapid progress that, in 1757, he was sent to Rome. Here he soon equaled his teachers and he heard much good music, notably Palestrina's, which influenced him greatly. After finishing his studies, he returned to Lucca, where he formed a strong friendship for the violinist Manfredi and joined him in a concert tour through Italy and southern France, to Paris, where they met a brilliant reception and were wonderfully successful. In the latter part of 1768 Boccherini and Manfredi, on the advice of the Spanish Ambassador, went to Madrid. Accounts differ as to their reception, but they were at least successful in obtaining court positions, Manfredi becoming first violinist in the Chapel of Don Luis, brother of the King, and Boccherini, his chamber-composer. The death of Manfredi, in 1780, and of Don Luis, in 1785, left Boccherini entirely alone, and his worldy wisdom being very small in comparison with his ability as a composer, his affairs became involved and his reputation began to decline. In 1878 he dedicated some music to Friedrich Wilhelm II. of Prussia and received from him the title of chamber-composer with a comfortable salary, but this stopped at the death of Friedrich, in 1797, and at the same time Boccherini's pension from the Spanish government was withdrawn; after this his affairs went from bad to worse and with the exception of a short time when Lucien Bonaparte was Ambassador to Spain and aided him, he lived in extreme poverty and died in want at Madrid in 1805.
Boccherini's ability as a composer is unquestionable and his productiveness was amazing. The entire number of his instrumental work is said to have been four hundred and sixtyseven, of which only seventy-four remained unpublished. His work had great originality and his music is full of beautiful and unexpected harmony. His style was simple and natural and his melodies excelled in freshness and grace. Although his music was never popular in Germany, his best works are still played in Italy, France and England. Boccherini and Haydn are supposed to have known each other's work and to have corresponded and their chamber-music is often compared. Boccherini's most famous works are his quintets, which are so arranged as to give the first violoncello the important and difficult part. Some of his instrumental works were twenty-one sonatas for piano and violin: twenty-eight trios for two violins and violoncello, one hundred and two string quartets; one hundred and thirteen quintets for two violins, viola and violoncellos; twenty symphonies and an orchestral suite. Among his vocal works were a Stabat Mater, A Christmas cantata; an opera, La Clementina; an oratorio; a mass for four voices; and motets and duets.