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Giuseppe Maria Gioacchino CAMBINI (1746-1825?)
Quintet, No.1 (1802?) [16:04]
Quintet, No.2 (1802?) [19:20]
Quintet, No.3 (1802?) [15:56]
Ensemble dell’Accademia: Carlo Ipata (flute), Simone Bensi (oboe), Narco Ortolani (clarinet), Gianfranco Dini (horn), Claudio Verh (bassoon)
rec. May 2005, Buti, Italy
SYMPHONIA SY05219 [51:42]
Experience Classicsonline


Somewhat surprisingly, this seems to be the first CD of Cambini’s music ever to be reviewed in these pages. Some biographical information will not, perhaps, go amiss in such circumstances.

Cambini was probably born in Livorno (or, as the English amongst his contemporaries insisted on calling it, ‘Leghorn’). In an autobiography – no more to be trusted in every respect than such other Italian examples of the genre as Benvenuto Cellini’s Vita, Casanova’s Storia Della Mia Vita and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s Memorie – tells a tale of a journey to Naples in 1767 and of, after performing there (he was an accomplished string player), being captured by pirates, sold into slavery and rescued only by the intervention of a Venetian merchant living in Spain. Whatever the truth of that story may be, he certainly turned up in Paris around 1773, publishing a set of six string quartets (the first of over 140 that he was to write) and going on to compose prolifically (so prolifically that later music historians have generally been unwilling to believe that there could be much of quality amongst such quantity) in just about every available genre – his output included operas, oratorios, five masses, motets, revolutionary odes and hymns, some 80 works in the fashionable genre of the sinfonia concertante, and an abundance of chamber music (in addition to his many string quartets). He also wrote a good deal of musical criticism. And these 3 wind quintets – examples of a then new genre.

The music is attractive and intriguing without being especially profound. Clearly indebted to the classical tradition, these quintets also have a certain proto-romantic quality. Everywhere tuneful and fluent, there are suddenly moments which speak of an unexpected degree of subjectivity. Each is in three movements disposed to the same fast-slow(ish)-fast pattern, but with some subtle differences in the way that pattern is worked out. Where, for example, the second quintet adheres throughout to sonata principles, the third quintet closes with lively rondo.

The most satisfying dimension of these quintets is perhaps the assurance and inventiveness with which Cambini handles the sound textures which this particular combination makes possible – there are many sensuously beautiful passages. The deliciousness of the sounds also owes something to the particular instruments played here. The Ensemble dell’Accademia was formed under the auspices of the Accademia Bartolomeo Cristoferi in Florence, and on this recording – created in association with the Festival Toscano di Musica Antica and the ambitious project operating under the title of Tesori Musicali Toscani – the members of the ensemble play modern copies of instruments of exactly the right period for the music. For example, flautist Carlo Ipata plays a copy by Rudolf Tutz of 1790 instrument by Genser; Simone Bensi’s oboe is a copy by Alfredo Bernardini of an instrument from the 1790s by Jakob Friedrich Grundmann; clarinettist, horn player and bassoonist likewise play what are obviously good copies of instruments from Cambini’s own lifetime.

These instruments blend beautifully together in performances which are intelligent and sympathetic, and recorded in a sound both warm and realistic.

Glyn Pursglove


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