Giuseppe Maria Cambini


François-Joseph Fétis, Belgian musicologist, wrote a lot of unconfirmed but very enchanting informations about the life of Cambini. For example Fétis wrote about Cambini's 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. Additionally Fétis also recounted Cambini's painful and tragic admission to a mental hospital in Bicêtre, where he was found dead in 1825.
Cambini himself mentioned scarcely traceable facts: 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 the World).
Also Mozart expressed exaggerated feelings toward Cambini in a letter to his father Leopold, accusating 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 accusation by Mozart is not especially valid because the power of Cambini in Paris did not reach the level that Mozart claimed; conversely, the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck, in the same years, often recommended him as an upstanding and honest man).

However we know he was born in Livorno around 1746 and at the beginning of the 1770s he arrived in Paris at the beginning of the 1770s, where he remained for at least 20 years, and composed oratorios, concert compositions, as well as chamber, symphonic, and theatrical compositions. More than 600 compositions were published with his name in the French capital until 1800.
In 1788, he became manager of the Théâtre Beaujolais, and he worked there during the revolutionary turmoil until 1791. 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 chemist and entrepreneur Armand Séguin, for whom he gave private concerts and composed more than 100 quartets. He composed revolutionary and patriotic anthems for the newborn Republic, taught violin, voice and composition privately, transcribed opera arias of other authors for any buyer, accepted editorial commissions, signed contracts with periodicals and magazines, including the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung and Tablettes de Polymne. From 1811, Cambini disappears without leaving any trace in any documents.

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, where nowadays all 100 proven autographs are.