Luigi Boccherini a Genova (1765, 1767): novità e precisazioni.

  • Carmela Bongiovanni


An investigation on music in Genoa that takes account of the passage in this city of a personality among the most important in the international music scene in the late eighteenth century form the aim of this contribution. Nowadays we can affirm with certainty that Luigi Boccherini was in Genoa both in 1765 and in 1767. As documented in the Stati delle anime of the genoese parish of San Siro, in 1765 Luigi lived with his father Leopoldo at the genoese dwelling of the builder of musical instruments Cristiano Nonnemacker and his large family. It is no coincidence that his house was just a few steps far from the Church and Oratory of St. Philip Neri for whom Boccherini wrote the two oratorios Giuseppe riconosciuto and Gioas (the latter still lacks the start of the second part). The date of composition of his oratorios is almost definitely due to 1765. After the death of his father in 1767, Luigi Boccherini went back to Genoa. This time, as attested from the Stati delle anime of the parish of Santa Maria delle Vigne, he found lodging alone in the palace of 'Signori' Rovere, still visible on the genoese Rovere place. Just in the spring of that year, Luca Fabris played an aria especially written by Boccherini to be performed in the main theater of the city, the Sant'Agostino (until 1770 still owned by the family Pallavicini). In September 1767, Boccherini was probably paid by a member of the Pallavicini family, Giuseppe (belonging to the cadet branch of this family), for one or more performances, as documented in an ambiguous note. From this notice, included in his record of personal expenses by Giuseppe Pallavicino, we can imagine a connection with the future Spanish career of Boccherini: Giuseppe and his brother Domenico Pallavicini were cousins in the second degree with the Secretary of State of the king of Spain, the Genoese Gerolamo Grimaldi (1710-1789). The latter, strongly linked to his homeland, had at the same time a great influence in the Spanish Court where he was Segretario de Estado from 1763 to 1776. He belonged through his mother to the first branch of Pallavicini: infact his mother, Giovanna, was cousin of Giuseppe and Domenico's father, Paolo Gerolamo III (died in 1736).
In Genoa, one of the stages of the journey of young Boccherini, many sources are preserved of his music, and even some unica or manuscripts kept in very few copies elsewhere (the two oratorios Gioas and Giuseppe riconosciuto are just one example). Some of these Genoese sources are the result of his musical activity in Genoa between 1765 and 1767. Just the direct examination of musical sources stored in the library of the local Conservatory in Genoa, some of them certainly of Genoese origin, given the outcome of comparative examination of watermarks, can also provide important answers on their origin, on the historical ties with the city that host them and especially on Boccherini's activity during his brief stay in Genoa, at the moment little known.
Boccherini was employed as a musician and composer in two well-defined areas in Genoa: firstly the élite composed of the most remarkable Genoese patrician families, secondly the Church and Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Genoa. The musical activities of this sacred institution in the second half of the eighteenth century are poorly documented by the heavy register accounting still preserved in the archive of St. Philip Neri: while providing some details on costs for music by the fathers of St. Philip, it is almost totally silent on musicians engaged in the orchestra and choir of St. Philip Neri, as well as the composers of oratorios performed annually, during the winter season.