original piano transcription of Luigi Boccherini’s String Quartet Op 2 No 2 in B flat major G 160
composition date: 1761
- 1st movement: 2012 (9 – 29 September)
- 2nd movement: 2013 (5 October)
- 3rd movement: 2012 – 2013 (22 September 2012, 4 and 5 September 2013)
complete piano transcription (piano solo arrangement) of all 3 movements:
- Allegro non tanto
- Fuga con spirito
YouTube channel (embedded links below)
Boccherini’s String Quartets Opus 2 is his first set published in this genre. It is a full set of 6 quartets, each spanning three movements. If you try searching commentary about them you will find discussions on their importance in the history of music, namely as the first true examples of string quartets ever published.
The debate is if you should consider Boccherini’s Opus 2 or Haydn’s Opus 1 and the point made is that Haydn’s set is actually a set of divertimenti, viewed from today’s perspective, although in both sets the instrumentation is the same and the one we all associate today to a “string quartet”: violin I, violin II, viola, cello. What tells apart a quartet from a divertimento? That’s another debate! Take Mozart’s Divertimenti KV.136,137,138. They are called divertimenti but they are scored for string quartet. Then consider his compositions KV.155, 156 etc.: same ensemble, but they are called string quartets.
Back to Boccherini, one look at the line-up:
- C minor
- Bb major (this one)
- D major
- Eb Major
- E major
- C major
When publishing a set of works as a bundle, the composer is faced with a choice: in which order? And yes, it is a relevant question. Do you know the saying “judging a book by the cover”? How much do we behave like that every day? First impressions are crucial. You need to strike the audience, make them interested from the start, or you’ll lose most of your potential public.
Boccherini chose the C minor one as the showpiece. There is no doubt that it’s one of the best of the set, but the second one is as much as great. Why choosing the C minor one? My take is that starting with a piece in minor key may have been considered a bold choice at the time, and thus he may have chosen that one on purpose, to make a deeper impression on the public. After all this was one of his first published works ever. [He was to repeat the same choice later on with the third set of quartets, Op 9, which also starts with a C minor one].
As for me, I chose to transcribe the second one for the most simple-minded reason ever: it was the one I liked the most. I simply can’t get enough of the lilting first theme. If I were asked about the difference in style between Haydn and Boccherini, I would only need to quote this as an example. Generally speaking I find great things in every cranny of the whole quartet, so transcribe-ahoy!
I transcribed the slow movement at the digital piano and made the bold decision of playing it myself, to commemorate the 100th transcription project. I tried several times (six, at least), and end up choosing the most acceptable one – that still contains a few stutterings. I’m happy I got a positive comment on it anyway. Back then I thought briefly about transcribing the whole Opus 2 and playing myself every slow movement, but things were to turn out a bit differently.
The fugue stalled nearly one year, but that was nothing more than a mixture of laziness and mental block. As soon as I resumed it, it went like a breeze.
Public thanks to the typesetter of the full score pdf uploaded on IMSLP.org, it would’ve taken me much more to undertake this project without it.
A previous candidate for the 100th transcription project was the Fugue from Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor.