String Quintet in D Major, Op.18 No.2, G.284
For 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello
The Op.18 No.2 String Quintet by Boccherini is the second of a set of six dating from 1774. It is in four movements, which from this period, was in itself unusual as his quintets had mostly been in three movements. Another feature of the work which is rather unusual is the trio section to the minuetto. Roughly four times longer than the minuet, it is actually a trio in that both violins are tacet for the entire section making it a trio for the viola and two cellos, each of which receives a generous solo. For this reason, the quintet was known for many years by the nickname Trio Concertante. The opening movement, Allegro assai, begins in a robust fashion with all of the voices bringing out the energetic main theme. The music displays an elegance which is fleet-footed. Next comes an deeply felt Adagio which has its roots in the Baroque. The third movement is a typical Menuetto with the aforementioned unusual extended trio section. The work concludes with another Allegro assai which like the opening movement is energetic and robust.
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.
Our new edition eschews the use of the false treble clef for the cello and has rehearsal numbers. 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.