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Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)

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Well, if you are looking at this picture of Boccherini, you don't need to be told that he lived a long time ago. In fact, he was born about 250 years ago which means he was alive at the same time as Mozart and Haydn. You can see he is wearing a wig like they did.

He came from a very musical family in Italy. His father was a singer and played the double bass. His brother and two of his sisters grew up to be ballet dancers and his youngest sister became an opera singer.

But Luigi doesn't look like a ballet dancer, does he, so it's a good thing he decided to be a cellist.

Luigi was first taught music by his father at home and then he was sent by his father to study in Rome. When he was fifteen he and his father travelled to Vienna, where they were engaged as court musicians. But there were many excellent cellists in Vienna and the other cellists seemed to get all the best jobs and it was hard to earn a living. So Luigi began to compose music as well.

For most of his life, Boccherini travelled around the different courts of Europe in order to find patrons (people who would pay him to compose music or to play the cello). Of course, he would have travelled on bumpy roads by carriage pulled by horses so the journeys would have taken a long time and been quite uncomfortable but it must have been quite exciting too.

Eventually he ended up in Spain where he was employed by Don Luis, the younger brother of King Carlos III. All was well until, one day, the King told Boccherini that he didn't like a passage in a new trio that Boccherini had written and ordered Boccherini to change it. But instead of changing it, Boccherini doubled the passage so that it was played twice. Not surprisingly Boccherini was told to leave. I'm not sure that story is true however because King Carlos III gave Boccherini money after Don Luis died.

But Boccherini doesn't seem to have had much luck with kings. After King Carlos III died, the new king of Spain was Carlos IV. Carlos IV loved music and he played the violin. He liked playing with his musicians. But perhaps the king wasn't a very good violinist because Boccherini complained of his 'ear-splitting' playing. (Or maybe he just didn't like violins - they can be a bit squeaky, can't they?)

Boccherini's story ends sadly. His wife and four of his six children died. He wasn't able to earn enough money and his own health was poor. He became ill with tuberculosis and he died in poverty.