String Quintet in E Major, Op.11 No.5 "Ladykillers"
For 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos
Of the more than 120 string quintets that Boccherini wrote, the String Quintet in E Major, Op.11 No.5 is one of the best known, if not the best known, and one of the few that is still occasionally performed in concert. This is almost certainly due to its Menuetto, which serves as the third movement. During the 19th century in France, Germany, Austria and England, there was at one time a Boccherini minuet craze and the minuet to Op.11 No.5 was singled out from among the others and appeared not only by itself but in all sorts of arrangements and eventually became known as “The Celebrated Minuet”. Certainly, it is the most famous of all the minuets that Boccherini wrote. And this no doubt contributed to its use in the popular 1955 British film The Ladykillers starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.
The opus numbers to Boccherini’s works are entirely unreliable and have over the years caused tremendous confusion with different publishers giving the same work different opus numbers and in some cases different works received the same opus number. This Quintet is the fifth of a set of six from his Op.11 composed in 1771. However, it was known throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries as Op.13 No.5. It was only with the definitive catalog of Boccherini's works by Girard that some order has finally been established. It is in four movements. The opening Andante mosso, amoroso, is entirely muted, which keeps the mood subdued throughout. Next comes an Allegro con spirito in which each of the cellos is given attractive solo passages. With its pleasing lilting melodies, it is easy to see why the third movement became the so-called Celebrated Minuet. Adding to its uniqueness is the fact that it, too, is entirely muted. The finale, Rondo, andante, though not a presto, has swinging feel to it which moves the music along with ease.
Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was born in the town of Lucca in northern 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.
This is a fine work, and not just the third movement, with good part-writing for all. The lovely, flowing melodies and rhythms are typical of Boccherini. The quintet is suitable for both concert and home performance.