(The Military Night Watch of Madrid)
Piano Quintet in C Major, Op.57 No.6, G.418
Including Variations on La Ritirata di Madrid
Boccherini wrote 12 piano quintets during 1797. The last was his the Piano Quintet in C Major, Op.57 No.6, G.418. It has four movements, three of which though charming are nothing remarkable. However, it is the third movement, subtitled Variations on the theme La Ritirada di Madrid (The Retreat from Madrid of the Military Night Watch), that allowed this work to stand out from the others. The theme is taken from a string quintet, G.324 titled Musica Notturna della Strade di Madrid (click on preceding link to view or purchase), a work he had composed earlier but which he did not try to publish 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 string quartet and guitar, in which version it has perhaps become best known. In describing what he hoped to convey in the La Ritarda, he 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.
Pianists take note: Ours is the first and only edition to have an easily performable finale because we have written it out. All other editions require the pianist to either memorize the movement or to frantically search for the da capo reprise.