A Ray of Light, a Musical Surprise

Boccherini G490
A short moment. © Charles Thibo

A ray of sunshine after weeks of rain – my soul had been longing for a little light for some time. It came unexpectedly on a Wednesday afternoon. I had just finished to study one of my piano pieces and was about to make myself a cup of tea when the clouds broke open and the sun came through. I left the tea in the cupboard and went outside to enjoy the sun. It inspired me to listen for the first time to a new record I had bought shortly before. It doubled my joy. Luigi Boccherini’s Symphony in D Major (G. 490) is just splendid.

The symphony doesn’t figure in the works catalogue that the composer himself compiled, but it was written most likely in 1765. It figured in the catalogue of Yves Gérard, first published in 1769 and it was the first symphony that Boccherini ever composed. The symphony was meant as an overture for Boccherini’s cantata “La confederazioni dei Sabini”, performed in 1765, which explains why it is a rather short piece, despite its three movements. It has nothing to do with the symphonies as they were written later by Mozart or Beethoven.

1765 was the year the composer definitely left his hometown Lucca. It was the time he came together with three other musicians to form the first ever quartet as such. As a cellist he toured Northern Italy with the Toscana Quartet for six months. Between two performances and repetitions he would write mainly new chamber music – for immediate use!

Boccherini was 22 years old when he wrote the Symphony in D Major and he recycled it twice which was not uncommon in his time. It served again as an overture to Boccherini’s oratorio “Il Giuseppe riconosciuoto”, its instrumentation augmented by two trumpets, and as a prelude to the opera “La buona figlia”, composed by Nicola Piccinni and performed in Aranjuez in 1769. It is a very nice, gentle piece of music, and I was very glad to have listened to it that afternoon. The sunshine lasted for less than ten minutes, but the good feeling induced by Boccherini’s symphony lingered on.

The Symphony in D Major has been recorded by the Ensemble 415 and Chiara Banchini.

© Charles Thibo


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de Chareli

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