Cambini Giovanni Gioacchino Maria

(Livorno 1745 - Paris? 1825?)

François-Joseph Fétis in his Biographie Universelle des Musiciens (Paris, 1873, pp. 162-64), although the absence of documented evidence, says that Giuseppe Gioacchino Maria, who was born in Livorno on February 13th 1746. We have only little information about his youth and his musical studies, that he may have begun in Livorno itself under the guide of a certain Maestro Polli, and then perhaps improved with Padre Martini in Bologna and with Franz Joseph Haydn. There is an autobiographic story - which seems reliable - where Cambini asserts he performed as violinist in a bow quartet which was composed by Luigi Boccherini (violoncello) , Filippo Manfredi and Pietro Nardini (violins). In the same biography by Fétis we can find the information of a journey to Napoli (around 1767), where Cambini may have made his debut with a work that was ignored by the contemporary local news. Another chronicle - very romantic indeed - says that when he came back from Napoli he was captured by the pirates, then sold as a slave, and finally redeemed by a rich Venetian merchant in Spain. The first information that is certainly true is the move of Cambini to Paris, where he played at the Concert spirituel in May 1773. The six quartets for bows op.1 were published in November of the same year. Then the instrumental compositions followed one another very fast, and in 1800 one could count more than 600 works published under the name of Cambini. All these works continued to be inserted in the programmes of the Concert spirituel and of the Concert des Amateurs, and this inclusion gave him popularity in the French musical circles. In the meantime Cambini combined this activity with that of composer of opera. As a composer of opera Cambini displayed grace and ease in writing, although he had not a real dramatic talent - so his works were not very satisfactory. But leaving his discontinuous melodramatic production, we could talk about Cambini as an author of symphonies and chamber music: the criticism for these works allowed Cambini to become composer of the Royal Chapel first, then in 1788 the music director of the Théâtre des Beaujolais - which was closed in 1791 - and finally director of the Théâtre des Louvois till the 1794 - when the theatre bankrupted. While many other foreign artists did not adapt themselves to the new revolutionary regime, Cambini seems to fit in it, and he composed patriotic hymns and songs - that the Education Committee paid 2000 livres as recognition. In fact he was forced to teach violin, singing and composition - wasting his talent in secondary activities - because he had not enough money and could not find an adequate position - he had lost the resource which was offered by the private concerts in the Parisian palace of the merchant Armand Séguin. After 1800 his creative impulse slowed down very much, because the situation was already more troubled and he begun to be interested in musical criticism: he wrote for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (1803-1805) and for the Parisian magazine Les tablettes de Polymnie (1810-1811). In the meantime, in 1807, he had drawn up an agreement with the publisher Sieber for the reprinting of the treatise The Art of the Playing on the Violin by Francesco Geminiani. These is the last certain piece of news we have about Cambini’s life. There are two contrasting hypothesis on the date and place of his death: someone believes that he died in the mental hospital of Bicêtre on December 29th 1825. Others believes that he died in the Netherlands in 1818. From the point of view of musicological research, only the recent studies have given Cambini a more objective position within the instrumental Italian tradition. A position which is free from prejudices and unnecessary apologies. Although his opera repertory is the result of a theatrical idea which is soft and yet superficial and schematic, and although his works of the revolutionary period are influenced by the effects of the celebrative aims of the amateur music, his instrumental compositions found an important approval. The instrumental compositions, and particularly the polyphonic symphonies, demonstrate his particular ability to orchestrate, while the many polyphonic quartets - generally written in due tempi - demonstrate his originality more in the construction of the musical speech and in the instrumentation and boldness of the pattern pertaining to tone-color and dynamism than in the melodic and harmonic expression.

DIGITAL CATALOGUE · Works of Cambini Giovanni Gioacchino Maria

Chamber music


6 Quintetti op. 14


6 trii "Venturi"