Steven Isserlis & Richard Egarr—Boccherini Cello Sonata in G Major, G. 5 - 92Y, New York

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Steven Isserlis & Richard Egarr—Boccherini Cello Sonata in G Major, G. 5

Apr 28, 2018

Steven Isserlis, cello
Richard Egarr, harpsichord

Cello Sonata in G Major, G. 5 composed in 1766
Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)

Largo
Allegro alla Militaire
Menuetto

Program note by Steven Isserlis © 2018:

The virtuoso cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini occupies a curious position in musical history. Although he was a near-contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, and is therefore often mentioned in the same breath as them, his music has really very little in common with that of either of those more forceful geniuses. Boccherini developed his own inimitable style: always elegant, inward-looking and full of tenderness, with shy humor. Above all, his music — much of it for chamber ensembles — is deeply cultured and graceful; perhaps the fact that his brother was both a poet (he wrote texts for Haydn and Salieri) and dancer, and his sister, brother-in-law and nephew were all distinguished figures in the world of ballet, influenced Boccherini’s musical language.

This sonata comes from a set of six, possibly written for concerts Boccherini gave in the late 1760s, and published in London around 1770. The accompaniment can be played on a second cello or double-bass (his father, who was his first teacher and seems to have performed often with his son, played both instruments) or, as here, realized on a harpsichord. Some editions have the Allegro alla Militaire as the opening movement, but we follow the London edition, which opens with the Largo. This movement is an aria, which no doubt showed off Boccherini’s pure singing tone, as well as his virtuosity, to fine effect. (Gregor Piatigorsky considered that Boccherini must have been the greatest cellist of all time.) The military bounce of the following allegro is curiously interrupted by a poignant melody — could it be the soldier’s girlfriend, begging him not to desert her? In the dream-like last movement, we encounter Boccherini’s enigmatic personality at its most captivating; using only the thinnest thread of material, he weaves his uniquely gentle magic spell.