6 Trios Op. 4 (G 83-88)

edited by Rudolf Rasch, Bologna, Ut Orpheus Edizioni, 2021 [Opera Omnia – Vol. XXVII.2], ISMN: 979-0-2153-2648-4, ISBN: 978-88-8109-518-6, BCE 9.
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Today Luigi Boccherini is best known as a composer of music for the cello – in particular sonatas and concertos – and of string quartets and quintets in which the cello often plays a prominent role. During the first decade of his career as a composer, the 1760s, however, he wrote string trios in the first place.

No fewer than three authenticated sets of six trios for two violins and violoncello were composed in the period from 1760 to 1769, to which later were assigned the opus numbers 1, 4 and 6; they were published in Paris as Opp. 2, 4 and 9 in 1767, 1768 and 1771 respectively. Two other sets of six trios, the Sei sonate a tre, Opera III (Paris: La Chevardière, [1768]) and the Sei conversazioni a tre, Opera VII (Paris: Bureau d’Abonnement Musical, [1770]), were published under Boccherini’s name but they are not included in the composer’s own catalogue, as recompiled in 1796.

Therefore, their authorship is at best uncertain although not a priori excluded. So, depending on further investigations, Boccherini wrote and had published in the brief time span from 1760 to 1771 at least three and possibly five sets of six trios for two violins and violoncello. Including a trio that remained in manuscript (see below) this amounts to at least nineteen and possibly as many as thirty-one trios for two violins an violoncello.

Boccherini’s Trios Op. 4, were according to his catalogue of 1796 composed in 1766, six years after the Trios Op. 1.
The majority of the manuscripts transmitting the Trios Op. 4 that are preserved today are not dependent on one of the early editions and therefore represent dissemination of the works from Boccherini’s original manuscript independently of these editions. This dissemination must have started soon after the composition of the trios in 1766, since the first edition, which must have been based on such a circulating manuscript, was issued already in 1768.
The first edition of the Trios Op. 4 is the one published by the Parisian music publisher Jean-Baptiste Venier as Sei sinfonie per due violino e basso, Opera IV (see Facsimiles 1-3). The edition is advertised in several Parisian newspapers in March 1768, that is, several months before Boccherini’s arrival in Paris in the summer of that year.
Remarkably enough, the Trios Op. 4 are among the very few works of Boccherini not available in any sort of modern edition before the present one.

The works are as easily found in early sources, both manuscript and printed, as the similar collections Opp. 1 and 6, for which there exist several modern editions published prior to their editions in the Boccherini Opera Omnia. In addition, the Trios Op. 4 are in no way less attractive than those of Opp. 1 and 6. The absence of modern editions is reflected in the absence of recordings on LP and CD so far and, probably so, also in the absence of the works on the concert stage and in domestic music making, for which they are so perfectly fit.

     May the present edition bring a change in this situation.

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