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Giuseppe Maria Cambini: String Quintets Nos. 1, 4 & 23

Cambini / Ensemble Entr'acte
Release Date: 01/01/2012 
Label:  Pan Classics   Catalog #: 10218   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Giuseppe Maria Cambini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Entr'Acte
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAMBINI String Quintets: No. 1 in E?; No. 4 in c; No. 23 in G Ens Entr’acte (period instruments) PANCLASSICS 10218 (72:11)

First, anyone who loves the music of the early Classicists should not be without this disc. Second, if you thought Boccherini was the first purveyor of string quintets with two cellos, you’d be wrong. Giuseppe Maria Cambini (1729–?83) was 14 years Boccherini’s senior and wrote 114 of them, a number that may actually exceed that of his younger compatriot. Both men were born in Italy, Read more Boccherini in Lucca, Cambini in Livorno. But other than the commonality of their birth country, their careers took them in very different directions.

Boccherini, as we know, headed to Madrid, where he was employed by the Infante Luis Antonio, younger brother of King Charles III. Cambini located to Paris around 1770, but wisely did not seek royal patronage in a monarchical succession that would soon enough be headed to being beheaded. Instead, Cambini managed to make it on his own, concentrating mainly on the writing of more than 600 purely instrumental works. Though he did briefly hold positions at the Théâtre Beaujolais and the Théâtre du Louvois, his attempts at opera are said to have been manmade disasters. A colorful anecdote has it that upon the failure of one of his stage works in Naples, Cambini fled with his fiancée aboard a ship that was captured by pirates. It’s a good thing, I guess, that the bandits weren’t opera critics, or they might have made the composer walk the plank. Mozart despised Cambini, blaming him with no proof for the cancellation of a concert in which Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K 297b, was to be performed during the composer’s Paris visit.

Blair Johnston of the All Music Guide maintains that Cambini was at heart a composer for the masses who played little part in the radical musical developments of the Classical period, stating that “his music epitomizes the French galant style, emphasizing a simple brilliance and charm that requires little depth of understanding to appreciate.” Just how little Cambini’s music is appreciated, or even remembered, is evident from the fact that ArkivMusic lists only two CDs dedicated exclusively to his works.

Hopefully, this new CD will kindle more of an interest in Cambini. Charming and easily digested as these pieces may be, I find them at least as richly textured, mellifluous, agreeably harmonized, and lengthily worked out and developed as any of Boccherini’s quintets. A first movement of 12:10 in the E?-Major Quintet is not an insignificant piece of music. Nor is the 11:24 first movement of its companion C-Minor Quintet inconsequential. These are three-movement works in the fast-slow-fast Italian sinfonia and concerto layout, but with perhaps less of a propulsive flamboyant style that would have catered to French tastes and made them appropriate to the Concerts Spirituels at which they were likely performed.

The five players that constitute Ensemble Entr’acte (Plamena Nikitassova and Fanny Pestalozzi, violins; Emmanuel Carron, viola; and Denis Severin and Felix Knecht, cellos) make for a well-balanced and finely matched group. There is, every now and then, the slightly aspirated sound that may be endemic to period-string instruments, or at least to the manner in which they are bowed; but intonation is not compromised, nor is enjoyment diminished. The Panclassics (the single word spelling is the company’s) recording is beautifully produced with great sound, excellent notes in three languages, and a classy cardboard slipcase.

This is strongly recommended to those who wish to discover some wonderful music by a composer who has been unjustly marginalized, quite likely as a result of having been maligned by Mozart.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

String Quintet No. 1 in E flat major by Giuseppe Maria Cambini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Entr'Acte
Venue:  Salle de musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Swi 
Length: 25 Minutes 27 Secs. 
String Quintet No. 4 in C minor by Giuseppe Maria Cambini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Entr'Acte
Venue:  Salle de musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Swi 
Length: 23 Minutes 45 Secs. 
String Quintet No. 23 in G major by Giuseppe Maria Cambini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Entr'Acte
Venue:  Salle de musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Swi 
Length: 22 Minutes 57 Secs. 

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