String Quintet in d minor, Op.13 No.4, G.280
For 2 Violins, Violas & 2 Cellos
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. Boccherini wrote more than 120 string quintets, most for two cellos rather than the usual two violas. Why was that, one might ask. The answer lies in the fact that Boccherini spent more than half his life at the Spanish court in a remote palace where he had but few musicians for whom to write. It explains why so much of his oeuvre is chamber music. Already on the staff of the Spanish Infante when he was hired was the Font family string quartet, a father and three sons. If Boccherini, a cellist, were to take part in the music he wrote, it would have to be a quintet for 2 cellos. It is extraordinary, given that he had no prior example to guide him, how well Boccherini's cello quintets turned out. With two cellos, no one cello has to fulfill the bass line at all times. He then uses this freedom to achieve an extraordinay balance between the instruments with all of the voices having solo opportunities.
By 1900, all but perhaps a dozen or so of his quintets had been forgotten and were no longer played. Among those which had not disappeared is Op.13 No.4. It is the fourth of a set of six dating from the mid 1770s. It is in three movements and has, with regard to his quintets, two unusual features. First, it is in the minor while most of the quintets are in the major. And second, the final movement is in the form of an extended fugue. The opening Allegro with subdued melody accompanied by rich harmonic support. The music flows along effortlessly. The second movment, Andante sostenuto, begins as a lovely serenade in concertante form, sung at first, entirely in the first violin. Soon other voices are given the chance to further develop the musical ideas. The finale, Allegro giusto, is as already noted, in the form of an extended fugue. Quite lively, it has a definite baroque aura to it
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 was also published by some publishers as Op.20 No.4. However, with the definitive catalog of Boccherini's works by Girard that its opus number has finally been settled beyond doubt. This is a good work with fine part-writing for all. The lovely, flowing melodies and rhythms are typical of Boccherini. It is suitable for both concert and home performance.