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Giuseppe Cambini

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Giuseppe Maria Gioacchino Cambini (Livorno, 13 February? 1746–Netherlands? 1810s? or Paris? 1825?) was an Italian composer and violinist.
Information about his life is scarcely traceable. Louis-Gabriel Michaud, French scholar and François-Joseph Fétis, Belgian musicologist, drafted his biography, and Cambini himself speaks about his past in an article published in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1804. However, all of these documents are full of errors and, therefore, need to be verified. It is not possible to confirm his personal data (only Fétis indicates his date of birth), nor his first studies. It is possible he is connected in some way to father Giovanni Battista Martini, and, more possibly to Filippo Manfredi, who was almost certainly his violin teacher. Fétis wrote about his unfortunate operatic debut in Naples in 1766, after which, during his return to Livorno by the sea, Cambini was kidnapped by pirates, who treated him terribly until his liberation by a Venetian aristocrat. The narration by the Belgian holds much resemblance to a story in the poetic periodical Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique, a fact that reduces its reliability. In the article found in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1804, Cambini claims to have played the viola in a string quartet with Luigi Boccherini, Pietro Nardini and his teacher Manfredi for six months in 1767. If what he says is true, this quartet would represent the first formation of this emerging genre in Italy, if not in all of Europe. For many years, this information fostered a gigantic legend about the importance of the role of Cambini in defining the string quartet. Actually, he was one of the many (even if one of the most prolific) who, in the same period, contributed to the development of the genre.
The first information that we have that is certain is his arrival in Paris at the beginning of the 1770s, where he remained for 20 years, and composed oratorios, concert compositions, as well as chamber, symphonic, and theatrical compositions (there are almost 14 operas, of which at least 12 were performed in Paris. In addition, there are some ballets that aroused the admiration of Christoph Willibald Gluck), and he performed his violin concertos (during the Concert Spirituel and the Concerts des Amateurs, managed by François-Joseph Gossec). More than 600 compositions were published with his name in the French capital until 1800 (above all by the Venier, Berault and Sieber publishers, see also the section Sources), of which more than 80 are symphonies concertante (he wrote more of these than any other French composer of the time, becoming a champion of the genre).
His success in composing for the sinfonia concertante genre inspired the rivalry of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who in 1778 accused Cambini of having obstructed the performance of his Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds KV 297b at the Concert Spirituel, because Cambini was jealous of its perfection. The skepticism with regard to Cambini is not observed from any other composer who dealt with him. Conversely, Gluck, in the same years, often recommended him as an upstanding and honest man. Therefore, it is probable that the Salisburg expressed exaggerated feelings toward Cambini.
The accusation by Mozart is not especially valid partially because the power of Cambini in Paris did not reach the level that Mozart claimed. In fact, the musical press paid less than gratifying attention to Cambini's vast production. He was cited relatively few times in the contemporary critiques, and his career as a violinist is less appreciated than other contemporary soloists of the time. His greatest successes, as aforementioned, were the sinfonie concertanti and his quartets, which even Mozart praised. His easy style, attractive and brilliant, open only just enough to innovation, rendered him a sort of protector of the galant Parisian style, and many of his pieces were favorably accepted in London as well as in America (some actively participated in defining the so-called forma sonata), but his theatrical works, operas, were almost always torn to shreds. Moreover, from 1785 it was affirmed in France of the more complex Viennese style, to which he tried to awkwardly join, undermining his fame, and damaging his reputation in the press of the German area.
In 1788, he became manager of the Théâtre Beaujolais, and he worked there during the revolutionary turmoil until 1791. His endurance permitted continuity of a high-quality operatic offering even in the years of the Republic. During the time of the Terror, beginning in 1791, he directed the Théâtre Louvois, which due to the economic crisis caused by the war was forced to close in 1794. The crisis affected many, as well as the estate of Cambini, and it constrained him to find very different work opportunities. Beginning in 1794, he accepted a salary from the gunsmith Armand Séguin, for whom he gave private concerts and composed more than 100 quartets. He composed revolutionary and patriotic anthems for the newborn Republic. He taught violin, voice and composition privately. In addition, he transcribed opera arias of other authors for any buyer. He accepted editorial commissions (in 1795, the editor Gavreaux asked him to attend to the reprinting of methods for violin by Francesco Geminiani, and in 1799 Nademann and Lobry hired him to edit one for flute).
At the beginning of the 1800s, Cambini signed contracts with periodicals and magazines, including the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung and Tablettes de Polymne, which published his articles until 1811. From that moment, Cambini disappears without leaving any trace in any documents. Michaud affirms that he died in Holland in 1818, information that satisfies scholars and has a certain amount of credibility, while Fétis recounts his painful and tragic admission to a mental hospital in Bicêtre, where he was found dead in 1825.
There proves to be more that 600 examples of works by Cambini diffused throughout the world. More than 300 consist of printed editions, 250 are in manuscript copies, and about 100 are proven autographs. We have received only his instrumental music. In fact, only the music of Le Tuteur avare, written in collaboration with Pasquale Anfossi in 1787 (today preserved at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lille) remains of his operas. For many years, there was a symphony that was considered to be his, but in reality it is by Joseph Martin Kraus for Boyer publishers. From 1784 to 1786, the publisher released the work of the then unknown Kraus under the name of the more famous Cambini in order to sell more copies, causing the misunderstanding of attribution, which was not resolved until 1989.
All 100 known autographs are in the United States of America, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The largest collection of manuscripts of Cambini's compositions are found in Prague, in the music history department of the National Czech Museum of Music. Following, in order of the number of preserved copies are: the Benediktinerstift der Bibliothek und Musikarchiv die Seitenstetten in Austria (the majority however are without a date)), the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello di Venezia (Torrefranca and Correr Collection), and the Biblioteca di Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte di Palazzo Venezia in Rome (Vessella Collection). Smaller Italian collections are in the Pasini Collections at the Conservatorio Luca Marenzio in Brescia, at the Conservatorio Cherubini of Florence, at the Conservatorio Paganini di Genoa, at the Biblioteca Estense di Mantova, at Casa Verdi in Milan, at the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella in Naples, and at the Biblioteca Casanatese di Roma (Marefoschi Collection and more). The Musical Documentation Center of Tuscany preserve three manuscripts of single parts of other chamber music compositions in the Venturi Music Collection in Montecatini Terme. Cities around the world that preserve at least five manuscripts are: Basel (Universitätsbibliothek), Cheb (Státní okresní archiv), Keszthely (Helikon Kastélymúzeum Könyvtára), Leutkirch im Allgäu (Fürstlich Waldburg-Zeilsches Archiv), Lille (Bibliothèque Municipale), Lund (Universitetsbiblioteket), New Haven (Music Library at Yale University), Prague (Biblioteca Nazionale Ceca), Steinfurt (Fürst zu Bentheimsche Musikaliensammlung Burgsteinfurt Collection, managed by Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität within the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek di Münster), Stockholm (Musik- och teaterbiblioteket) and Västerås (Stadsbibliotek).
The Conservatoire de Paris and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France are the institutions that preserve the majority of the printed editions during Cambini's life, followed by the British Library of London, the Rossijskaja Gosudarstvennaja Biblioteka of Moscow, the Fürst zu Bentheimsche Musikaliensammlung Burgsteinfurt of Steinfurt, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of Vienna, the Biblioteca Nacional of Spain, the Kongelige Bibliotek of Copenhagen, the Biblioteca Estense of Modena, and the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria of Turin (in the Foà and Giordano collection).
Around 1936, the Quartet of Rome (Francesco Montelli and Oscar Zuccarini, violins; Aldo Perini, viola; Luigi Silva, violoncello), recorded Quartetto in Re maggiore by Cambini adapted by Fausto Torrefranca. The 78 rpm disc of the first publication are preserved at the Istituto centrale per i beni sonori e audiovisivi di Roma, and are digitalized on Internet Culturale.
The following musical examples were performed by the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet in 1970.
Trois Quintetti Concertans ("Three Wind Quintets", c. 1802)
No. 2 in D minor
No. 3 in F major