Liner Notes Musicology, Part I.

By Matanya Ophee

Quite by accident, not even thinking about it, I have discovered in 1979 the de Fossa-Picquot correspondence in the Archives Départementales des Pyrénées-Orientales in Perpignan. That correspondence led to an examination of the manuscript of the six quintets with guitar by Luigi Boccherini in the library of Congress. The conclusion I reached after that examination was that the manuscript was not an autograph in the hand of the composer, but a copy made by François de Fossa in Madrid, in 1811. The entire affair was described in my book on the subject which I published in 1981. The book began with a critical statement of the conclusion of Yves Gérard, in his 1969 Thematic Catalogue of the works of Luigi Boccherini, that the manuscript was an autograph. At the time, I sent a copy of the book to Mr. Gérard and solicited his commentary. His response was most enthusiastic. He fully agreed with my conclusions and congratulated me on a brilliant research, saying: “ . . . absolutely convincing and brilliant . . .  what a beautifully printed edition . . . ”. Here are some of the reviews that were published soon after the book came out:

“ . . . the biographical study about de Fossa presents for the first time reliable information on his life and work . . .  well documented monograph . . . ” Miguel Coelho Guitar Review

“ . . . an important musicological document . . .  displaying exacting scholarship, Ophee presents solid evidence . . . ” Jim Schwartz, Guitar Player Magazine.
“ . . . Ophee’s study resembles a detective novel . . . this is a book which belongs on the shelves of every institutional music library and every serious guitar scholar’s library . . . ” M. June Yakeley, Classical Guitar.

“ . . . Stimulating new work . . .  this is the most painstaking monograph on a guitaristic subject I have seen to date . . . ”    Peter Danner, Guitar and Lute.

“ . . . a fortunate encounter between historical musicology and archival research worthy of a detective . . . ” Danilo Prefumo, il Fronimo.

    Since its publication in 1981, this book has become the standard text on the Boccherini guitar quintets. According to the OCLC data base, it has been acquired by 81 research libraries in the US and England, including some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Several hundred copies of the book are in private hands all over the world. As a matter of fact, the book is quoted and referred to in most  writings on music history in which the subject of the quintets comes up, and certainly in most recordings on the market today. Actually, the very first time the book, and my work, has been mentioned in the liner notes of a recording of the quintets, was in the 1983 recording of the six quintets from the Washington manuscript by Jean-Pierre Jumez and the Bulgarian Dimov quartet.(Note 1) What was unique about this recording is that it used the edition of the quintets made by Yves Gérard and published by Heugel & Cie in 1973.(Note 2) Naturally, the liner notes were written by Mr. Gérard himself. (Note 3) 

    Perhaps the best scholarly appraisal of my book was published by the Catalan scholar Jaime (Jaume) Tortella in his recent book on Boccherini, a book that was published, and properly so, with a preface by Yves Gérard. (Note 4)  Tortella did have a few critical remarks to make, mainly about the accuracy of some of my spellings of French and Spanish words, but on the whole, he pretty much covered the main points of the book, describing them in quite some detail.

    I do not mean to suggest that a book that was published 24 years ago, is not without faults. Perhaps its greatest fault was that at the time, I did not know as much about the subject as I do today, and that many of the questions I left dangling in the book have not been yet answered, not by me and not by any other scholar. At the same time, the basic premise of the book remains unchallenged. All of this is to simply say that the subject of Boccherini's guitar quintets has been a major part of my occupation for the last 25 years, and that I do know something about the subject.

    Several months ago,  while reading the archives of the Vihuela-L mailing list, I ran into a post by one James E. Edwards, On Mon, 07 Feb 2005 11:37:14 -0800, in a thread regarding the stringing of the guitar in 18th century Spain.

"...Clive Titmuss was offering a model of a six course guitar from that period. 
 It's probably the type of guitar Boccherini heard when he was in Spain, and 
probably the guitar his "quintets" were played on.  This is definitely an area 
of early guitar that deserves exploration..."

I was not a member of the list at the time, but only reading the traffic on it on the Archive. Much of the discussion there was outside my frame of interest, or things that have been hashed and rehashed many times before. But this caught my eye and I subscribed to the list. I agree with Mr. Edwards that a double strung guitar was the more common instrument in Spain at the time Boccherini lived there, and I have written on this subject extensively. For example, in my article on the History of Spanish guitar methods. I also agree with him that this is an area which deserves exploration. What got my attention was the speculation that probably the quintets were played originally on a double strung guitar. As far as I know, there is no evidence that these quintets were ever performed in Spain during Boccherini's life time, or even after. So the following day I posted this message:

James wrote:

 > It's probably the type of guitar Boccherini heard when he was in Spain,

Probably. Double strung guitars were popular in Spain well into the mid 
19th century. Still in his Nuevo Método of 1843, Dionisio Aguado continues 
his campaign against double stringing, which means the practice was still 

 > and  probably the guitar his "quintets" were played on.

That is less probable. As far as I know, there is no record that these 
quintets were ever performed in Spain, or anywhere else for that matter, 
until about 1926 when they were performed in Germany by Heinrich Albert and 
friends.(Link to Update) Actually, the main existing manuscript for the quintets, the one 
in the Library of Congress, is a copy made by Frenchman François de Fossa, 
who most probably played a chitarra francese, i.e., a single strung instrument.

 >This is definitely an area of early guitar that deserves exploration.

Indeed it is, and much work has been done in this area by Spanish scholars 
such as Luis Briso de Montiano, Julio Gimeno and quite a few others. They 
usually hang around the Spanish guitar forum at
The following day, this was posted on the list:

A couple of years ago, I heard Rolf Lislevand perform the Fandango
quintet. He used a five course baroque guitar. My question is; was this
"authentic" performance? Was the five course guitar still used in Spain at
the time when these pieces where written? It sounded great!

Are Vidar Hansen
My response to Mr. Hansen was this:
I have no doubt it sounded great, but so would any professional level 
performance on any other plucked-fretted instrument. Five course guitars 
were still in use all over Europe until well into the first couple of 
decades of the 19th century, but I do not think you can call these 
instruments "baroque guitars". The Baroque was well over by the time 
Boccherini settled in Spain. In any case, there are currently only one 
source for the Fandango quintet, and that is the de Fossa copy in the 
Library of Congress. That same source has been rendered differently by the 
three editors who, so far, have put this music into print, i.e., Heinrich 
Albert, Ruggero Chiesa and Yves Gérard. All three versions, based on the de 
Fossa copy, are intended to be played on a six _string_ guitar, not even on 
a six course guitar. So whatever Lislevand was doing was really an 
arrangement of an arrangement of an arrangement. I am glad to hear it was 
done successfully, and therefore, it does not really matter if it was 
authentic or not.

And then the proverbial govno hit the vintelator. My long time antagonist Roman Turovsky, a man who prides himself on not owning a guitar, and greatly disliking guitar music, challenged me on the issue of these quintets' first performance:

> That is less probable. As far as I know, there is no record that these
> quintets were ever performed in Spain, or anywhere else for that matter,
> until about 1926 when they were performed in Germany by Heinrich Albert and
> friends. 
Except, in Boccherini's own words dated 6/20/1799, they had already been
performed at the Marquis de Benavente's.

Of course I knew exactly what he was referring to, but I was interested in finding out if his knowledge of the subject is based on a direct reading of the available sources or on some third hand information. So I posted:

That's Benavent, without an e at the end. However, I would be delighted to 
stand corrected here, if you could supply the full quotation, and the 
precise source for it. Have no fear, I have the entire available literature 
on Boccherini right here in my house. I may have missed something as 
important as that, and if so, I would like to know what. Thanks in advance.

Right on cue, Roman answered:

>It is a letter from LB to Pleyel. In it Boccerini also states unequivocally
>that he made the guitar transcription himself for Benavente's sole use.
>Spelling with an E is in the source.

I insisted:

You are getting there, but not quite. Where is this letter quoted, and what 
does it actually say?

You implied in your previous message that the letter stated that the 
quintets were _performed_ in the marquis' house, in order to show that my 
statement about a first performance in 1926 in Germany is not tenable. Now 
you say that LB said that the quintets were written for the sole use of the 
Marquis, but does it also say that he actually made use of them, does it?

As for the spelling, I am well aware of the original spelling, and I 
actually used it myself in my book on the Quintets in that spelling. 
Unfortunately, whoever transliterated the original letter screwed up. There 
is a quite lengthy study by Josep Maria Mangado y Artiga on this question. 

The Marquis de Benavente (with e at the end) was quite another person who 
had nothing to do with Boccherini or the guitar.

Roman was adamant:

Just to show how much I deserve the title of "scum-sucker" you gave me on
your blog, here it is:
".....My dear sons and friends (that is how I address all young people with
talent), Garat and Rode have been able to hear at the Marquis of Benavente's
almost all of the opus [56] (which I transcribed for guitar for the sole use
of this connoisseur) and they will be able to tell you something about it,
I'm sure you will easily find the source.

I am not sure how the quotation of a letter, without giving the precise source from which it was taken shows that the writer does not deserve to be called a "scum-sucker." Actually, I do not recall ever calling Roman by that mellifluous moniker and a search of my blog does not bring it up. Not exactly in my limited vocabulary of English language obscenities. But if I didn't use that appellation in regard to Roman Turovsky, perhaps I should have, since obviously he did not pick up this quote from any primary or secondary source, but most probably from some liner notes to a CD. I retorted:

You are still not getting it. My original statement in this thread, the one 
you are challenging, is that as far as I know, there is no record of a 
performance of the quintets prior to 1926 in Germany. Your sole basis for a 
challenge to this is this letter from from Boccherini to Pleyel. So let me 
analyze for you this text which you are quoting, since, obviously, you are 
incapable of doing so yourself.

1. Some of the quintets from  p. 56 were performed in the house of the 
Marquis de Benavent(e) (sic).

2. Boccherini transcribed for guitar "almost" all of this op. number.

These are the facts stated in the letter. Now, for your instruction, Op. 56 
is a set of 6 quintets for piano, 2 violins, viola and cello and which is 
designated in the Gérard catalogue as No. 407-12. Boccherini says that 
"almost" the entire set were performed, but not all. Obviously, it would 
have made for a very long evening to perform all six of these. What 
Boccherini does NOT say, is that what was performed in that house on that 
occasion, were the guitar transcriptions.

There is no argument that Boccherini  made these transcriptions for the 
Marquis de Benavent.  But unfortunately, there is no record of these 
transcriptions having been performed by the Marquis, or by any one else, 
and the letter you are quoting is a lame excuse for an historical 
documentation of a performance.

Roman was unrepentant:

It is sufficiently clear that the guitar versions were in fact performed in
1799, to Yves Gerard and GianGiacomo Pinardi. In fact there is no reason to
think otherwise, unless one is MO (who only sees a pimple on a callipygian

Needless to say, I am known to be fond of examining callipygian objects, usually belonging to members of the female persuasion, whether they have pimples on them or not. But I have never heard the name of Pinardi, and I thought I was quite familiar with the writings of Yves Gérard on the subject. So I posted this enquiry on my blog:

Any one had seen or heard a recording of the Boccherini Guitar Quintets by one Giangiacomo Pinardi?

Never heard of this man before, which does not mean much, since there are a lot of people I have never heard of before. But Googling this name, reveals that he has already a few CDs to his name where he plays guitar, theorboe and mandolin. I am perfectly aware that there are a lot of young men and women coming out of the wood works fast and furious, at a rate that is probably a bit more favorable than the rate of hasbeens moving away from music performance and into the real-estate and insurance sales business. But I have not heard of Pinardi. If any of his CDs have been reviewed in the guitar press, and I am on the omaggio list for most of them (I do pay a subscription to Soundboard and for the Guitar Review. The first because I have been a supporter of the GFA since almost its very beginning, and the second because I want to be sure to have the last issue, so my collection of GR will be complete... a Complete Run is worth a lot more money...) I must have missed it.

The reason I am interested in this name is because he was mentioned as an authority on the provenance of the Boccherini guitar quintets. Having written the definitive book on the subject in 1981, a book that was hailed as “. . . absolutely convincing and brilliant. . .” by none other than Yves Gérard, the author of the Boccherini Thematic Catalogue of 1969, I am curious if this man Pinardi knows something about the subject which I do not.

So before I rush out to Border's to see if I can scare up a copy of this CD, I would like to know if anybody knows of any serious scholarly writings by Pinardi on the subject, over and above whatever he has written in the liner notes to his CD. Contrary to some other soi-disant experts one finds at every twist and turn around the Internet turnpike, I normally discount the information given in liner notes, (even if written by myself...) as a reliable source on historical matters. To illustrate the point, here are excerpts from an online review of the Pinardi recording:

Transcribed from earlier cello and piano quintets to accommodate a guitar-playing marquis, these two quintets (Boccherini composed six in this untitled series) seamlessly cobble together movements from different compositions.[...] Boccherini infuses the quintets' concluding movements with themes from Spanish popular music. An energetic fandango—replete with castanets—caps the D-major quintet and scene-painting variations on a military march close the C major.

Such reviews, traditionally, take their information directly from the liner notes. Record reviewers, with few exceptions, are not known to be conversant with the scholarly literature directly. If so, the liner notes tell us two blatantly false bits of information:

1. Boccherini arranged only six quintets (In my book, I give the details of the 9 existing quintets, and of the other 6, a total of 15!, that are known by literary reference).

2. The Ritirata di Madrid is an integral part of the C Major quintet. (It is not. It is a completely separate entity, coming from a completely separate Boccherini work, existing in 1923-26 in a completely separate manuscript, now lost. It was cobbled together with the C Major quintet and published as one work by Heinrich Albert in 1926.)

Obviously, there is always the possibility that Mr. Pinardi, or whoever wrote the liner notes to his recording, had discovered an original source for the C Major quintet which includes the Ritirata, and if so, I would be most interested to learn about it. But there is no way he could make 3 existing quintets disappear, Update: particularly, when the recording in question contains two quintets that are not part of the six in LoC, the C Major (G.324) and the Ritirata (G.418). Hence, my curiosity.

Not receiving any specific information in return for my enquiry, I bought the Pinardi CD (Note 5)  on Amazon. Interestingly enough, the author of the liner notes is not the guitarist Giangiacomo Pinardi, but rather the famous Yves Gérard. Now that I have read them, I am not sure if Mr. Gérard actually wrote these notes for this specific CD, or simply allowed the producer to make use of the previous set of liner notes he wrote for the Jumez-Dimov LP set 22 years ago. The reason for this suspicion is exactly the spelling of the name of the Marquis. In these liner notes it appears, as Roman Turovsky reported, as Benavente, with e at the end. I do not know if Mr. Gérard ever seen the Mangado website in which the proof of the incorrect spelling is so eloquently presented. But certainly he could not in all consciousness forget his own writing on this very subject. In his preface to the 1973 Heugel edition of the quintets, Gérard says:

"...The similarity of the name of Benavent (or Benavente) with that of the Benavente-Osuna has moreover created confusion in the minds of various biographers of Boccherini from Louis Picquot to Germaine de Rothchild. It is only recently (1971) that the distinction has been made between the comtesse duchesse de Benavente, her husband and a certain marquis de Benavent whose family has nothing commun (sic) with the powerful ducal dynasty of the Benavente-Osuna.*


*Don Fernando Fernandez de Betancourt, Historia Genealógica y héraldica de la Monarquía Española. Casa real Osuna y grandes de España. (Madrid, Teodor, 9 vols. 1897-1912. The History of the Benavente-Osuna figures in volume II.

In my estimation, the incorrect spelling in the liner notes cannot be laid at the feet of the nominal author, but rather at the feet of the producer or typesetter.  The quote of the letter from Boccherini to Pleyel is indeed included in these liner notes, as it was included in Gérard's Thematic catalogue of the Works of Boccherini, (Note 6) and in Germaine de Rothchild's biography. (Note 7). And here comes the clincher: the quotation of the letter as it appears in the liner notes, is radically different than the quotation as it appears in both the Gérard Catalogue and the Germaine de Rothchild biography.

The letter is a sales pitch by Boccherini for his piano quintets, imploring the publisher Pleyel to publish them. It contains such phrases as "... I am anxious that you should publish the Piano-forte work at the earliest possible date..." and "...I am anxious that you should publish the piano work exactly as I have written it..." and then comes the passage in which he mentions the guitar works:

".....My dear sons and friends (for all young men of talent I call my sons), Garat and Rode have heard  almost all of the whole of the Piano work in the house of the Marquis of Benavente here (transcribed by me for the guitar for the sole use of the Marquis) and they will be able to tell you what sort of work it is, etc..."

This text is of course a translation from an original letter, presumably in French, which is reported to be housed in the Pleyel Archives. In the French version of the liner notes to the CD, the quotation is given in French, but there is no way to know if this is the same text as it appears in the original. Supposing that it is, one can see that the English translation as it appears in the liner notes, (translated by Paula Kennedy), is probably a more or less good translation of the original, but because it differs so radically from the earlier translations of Gérard and de Rothchild (both translated by Andreas Mayor), it fortifies my perception that Yves Gérard  cannot be held responsible for misleading information these liner notes imply.

Either way, it is clear that the letter does not offer Pleyel the guitar transcriptions, but rather the original piano quintets. The mention of the guitar quintets is made here as an aside to impress upon Pleyel Boccherini's relations with wealthy patrons. It also does not say specifically that the music performed at the house of the Marquis on that occasion were in fact the guitar quintets. Such assumptions are simply not tenable.

There is another reason why the CD in question does not represent the music as it was first conceived by Luigi Boccherini. The two quintets recorded are G. 448 and G. 453. There are currently 3 available editions of G. 448. The one produced by Ruggero Chiesa and published by Suvini-Zerboni, the one produced by Gérard and published by Heugel, and the one produced by Heinrich Albert and published by Zimmerman in 1926. They are all different in some very important aspects. The version used on the record is the Suvini-Zerboni one. In other words, a work edited according to the de Fossa manuscript in the Library of Congress which dates from circa 1811, 6 years after the composer's death. There is no way of knowing to what extent this transcription by de Fossa corresponds to the original Boccherini transcription, without examining the original manuscript. That one, Alas, is not known to exist. In other words, these quintets, as recorded, could not have been performed in Madrid in 1799.

Strangely enough, the CD liner notes do not say what source was used in the recording of G. 453. There is only one edition on the market of that quintet. In and of itself, G. 453 did not exist in 1799, as it happens to be a concatenation by Albert of two separate quintets, G. 324 and G. 418. In other words, I stand by my words that these quintets were not performed in Madrid during the composer's life time, and the earliest documentable performance was the one made by Heinrich Albert in Germany in the mid 1920s.

As for the recording itself, it is one of the strangest recordings of this music I have heard. There is nothing on the CD to indicate what sort of guitar Signor Pinardi was using, and whether it was single strung, double strung, using gut or nylon or steel or whatever. One thing is certain: the guitar is hardly audible in some of the most important passages in this music. Whatever guitar was used, Signor Pinardi is certainly far from the high standards established by many important guitarists, not least of which is Richard Savino, Pepe Romero, Jean-Pierre Jumez, Dagoberto Linhares, Daniel Benko, and a host of many others. Those who subscribe to the authenticity cult would probably enjoy it, but if the likes of Roman Turovsky think that this is good stuff and the last word on the subject, he is not only deluding others who may not know any better, but he is mainly deluding himself.

Part II to follow soon.


1. Balkanton No. BKA 11116/18. Return to text

2. Luigi Boccherini, Sei Quintetti con Chitarra, Édition par Yves Gérard, Paris, Heugel & Cie , Le Pupitre, Collection de musique ancienne publiée sous la direction de François Lesure, LP. 29. Return to text

3.As we shall see, Mr. Gérard had recycled the same liner notes, with some minor changes, on at least one other occasion. Return to text

4. Jaime Tortella, Boccherini un músico Italiano en la España Illustrada, Prefacio por Yves Gérard, Madrid, Sociedad Española de Musicología, 2002. pp. 321-2 & 405-7. Return to text

5. Boccherini, Europa Galante, Veritas, No. 7243 5 45607 2 9. Return to text

6. Yves Gérard, Catalogue of the works of Luigi Boccherini, London: Oxford University Press, 1969. p. 498. Return to text

7. Germaine de Rothchild, Luigi Boccherini His Life and Work. London, Oxford University Press, 1965. p. 135 . Return to text

UPDATE: I have recently received this message from the German guitarist/scholar Andreas Stevens:

Being labelled somewhere else as "Today´s leading Albert proponent" I would like to confirm Albert as the first to have played Boccherinis Quintetts BUT this is not true. The first performance of "Quintett von Boccherini für Streichquartett und Gitarre" took place in the "Festkonzert am 30. November (1909) im Museum". It was given in order to celebrate the 10 year of the existence of the Munich society. The performing artists were: The Sieben-Quartett ( Wilhelm Sieben, Anton Huber, Michael Raucheisen, Emmeran Stoeber) the guitar part was played by Anton Mehlhart.

I am indebted to Andreas Stevens for this information. While it does not change my contention that there is no record of the quintets having been performed in Spain during Boccherini's life time, it places in a different light the involvement of German guitarists with this music.

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