The Sinfonia a Grande Orchestra No. 21 in C Major, Gérard Catalogue No. 523, for Guitar, two Principal Violins, two Violins ripieni, Viola, Violoncello, Double-bass, two Oboes, two Horns and Bassoon, by Luigi Boccherini, was originally conceived by Boccherini as a Concerto in C Major for two Principal Violins, two Violins ripieni, Viola, Violoncello, Double-Bass, two Oboes and Bassoon, op. 7 dated 1769,(G. 491) consisting of three movements: Allegro, Adagio, and closing with a Rondo movement also designated as an Allegro. The title in Boccherini’s own autograph catalogue reads as follows: “Concerto Grande a più Stromenti obligati, composto in Madrid per le Academie que si fecero nell teatro chiamato de los Caños del Peral.” This Concerto, must have held great favor with the composer himself, as he arranged it in 1771 as a Quintet with two cellos, his Op. 10 N° 4, (G. 268) adding a short introductory Adagio, and re-designating the first movement as an Allegro con Forza and the last movement as a Rondeau proper. This Sinfonia with a guitar obbligato, must have been originally intended, as Igor Kipnis aptly observed, “for a not very skilled amateur.” Once this fact is recognized and the proper adjustments are made to bring the music in line with modern technique and the physical attributes of the instrument, Boccherini’s skill as an arranger becomes apparent.
Indeed, comparing this arrangement to the string quintet Op.10 N° 4 on which it is said to be based, we can see that while the arrangement contains some of the original structure and thematic material of the quintet, it is an expanded orchestral interpretation, using some of the original themes, but also new ones which capitalize on the dialogue between the concertino instruments, and in particular, between the guitar and the first principal violin. It is important to point out that this is not a guitar concerto, but rather a chamber music work in which the guitar is just another member of the orchestra. It has been intimated by some who profess an ineluctable adhesion to HIP, that the proper guitar to use in the performance of this work is a six-course, double strung guitar. Indeed, this was the most popular instrument in general use in Spain at the end of the eighteenth century when this work was composed. However, we have no idea if the dedicatee of the work, the one person who most probably would have performed this work, if he ever did, Francisco de Borja de Riquer y de Ros (1768-1849), the Marquis de Benavent, may, or may not have been one of the followers of the Padre Basilio and Federico Moretti, two leading guitarists in Madrid at the time, who played single-strung six-, or even seven-string guitars. Whatever instrument one chooses today, the paramount consideration should not be any unprovable HIP speculations, but the ability of the guitar to maintain a good balance with the orchestra.
Although originally composed for the personal enjoyment of one person, the dedicatee, this Sinfonia, an instrumental ensemble that employs the main instruments in the string and wind sections of an orchestra, would be a perfect vehicle for introducing guitar students to the joys of chamber music in a larger ensemble.
Product Code: EICM-27