There is one melody that is often used by Hollywood to emphasize a sophisticated atmosphere. That tune is the Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11 by Luigi Boccherini. Harmonious Music also includes the piece, often times referred to as Boccherini’s Minuet, regularly for both wedding ceremony and cocktail hour performances.
This Rococo hit is typically used as background music to depict high society durring the late nineteenth century in period films. It is actually a very fitting use of the music because the song was written while Boccherini was employed by King Carlos III’s brother the infante don Luis de Borbón in Madrid, Spain. In this post Boccherini was paid a handsome stipend of 30,000 reales as a cellist and composer.
The Minuet was written in 1771 as part of Boccherini’s second series of quintets under don Luis’s patronage. Boccherini’s quintets are unique from many other composers because he wrote for two violins, one viola and two cellos. Most other composer’s string quintets utilize two violins, two violas, and one cello. Boccherini’s preference certainly results from the fact that he was a virtuoso cello player in his own right. It is said that he was capable of performing the violin parts of string quartets in their original pitch on cello when musicians fell ill and a substitute was needed.
Luigi’s aptitude on cello was only one motivation for his unique quintet compositions. He had also befriended a family of string players by the name of Font who were also employed by don Luis. This highly esteemed quartet presented the opportunity for Luigi Boccherini to perform his own compositions with a skilled string ensemble on a regular basis.
Although Boccherini was Italian by birth and training, he is considered a Spanish composer. As a result many critics note a Spanish influence in Boccherini’s Minuet. This is especially evident in the original rendition written for string quintet, which utilizes pizzicato and syncopation between the various voices resulting in a guitar like effect. The following recording is a Piano and Violin reduction, which is performed regularly by Harmonious Music.
There is some misinformation floating around the internet indicating that Boccherini was dismissed by don Luis for refusing to change a passage of music. This assertion, however, is erroneous. Boccherini remained in don Luis’ patronage until the Infante’s death in 1785. Tragically in the same year Luigi Boccherini’s first wife Clementina also passed away after suffering a stroke.
The loss of his employer and his wife left Luigi Boccherini in a difficult position because he had suddenly become an unemployed single father of six young children. Fortunately, Luigi Boccerini was offered a pension from three sources, The Real Capilla (Royal Chapel), the Countess-Dukes of Benavente-Osuna and most significantly the appointment of composer to King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II’s court. Shortyly after the death of three of his daughters and his second wife, Boccherini passed away most likely from Tuberculosis in Madrid, Spain during 1805.
Although, the end of Luigi Boccherini’s life was wrought with tragedy, it does not change the fact that most of his earlier works are airy and uplifting. This is particularly true in the case of Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11. This fine composition properly earns its place as a staple in the films of Hollywood as well as Harmonious Music’s repertoire for wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours. It certainly is suitable for any event in New York’s Hudson Valley where an atmosphere of sophistication is required.