(The Military Night Watch of Madrid)
Quintet for Guitar & String Quartet in C Major, G.453
Including Variations on La Ritirata di Madrid
Boccherini wrote 9 quintets for guitar and string quartet during 1798. The movements of the guitar quintets are wholly transcribed from earlier quintets, usually string or piano quintets, The last guitar quintet was the Quintet in C Major, G.453. It has four movements, three of which are taken from an earlier quintet, G.408 and the last movement from his famous string quintet, G.324.which has become known as La Ritirada di Madrid (The Retreat from Madrid of the Military Night Watch). It was this movement which allowed this particular guitar quintet to stand out from the others. The G.324 String Quintet he subtitled La Musica Notturna della Strade di Madrid (Night music in the streets of Madrid click here to view or purchase). Each movement portrayed something different, for examples, drunks singing or church bells ringing. The last movement was the Military Night Watch clearing the streets at curfew time. Boccherini never chose to publish this work because as he told his publisher, "The piece is absolutely useless, even ridiculous, outside Spain because the audience cannot hope to understand its significance nor the performers to play it as it should be played." But within Spain itself, during his lifetime, the work became quite famous in arrangements of it Boccherini made for piano quintet and also for guitar quintet, in which version it has become best known. In describing what he hoped to convey in the La Musica Notturna della Strade di Madrid, Boccherini wrote:
"One must imagine sitting next to the window on a summer's night in a Madrid flat and that the band can only be heard in the far-off distance in some other part of the city, so at first it must be played quite softly. Slowly the music grows louder and louder until it is very loud, indicating the Night Watch are passing directly under the listener's window. Then gradually the volume decreases and again becomes faint as the band moves off down the street into the distance.”
Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was born in the town of Lucca in nothern Italy. He studied cello and became a virtuoso eventually moving to Spain where he took employment with the Spanish royal family for the rest of his life.