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The Consort

David J Golby

Volume 67, Summer 2011

Giuseppe Cambini Six Trio Concertans
op.45 for flute, oboe and bassoon,
vol.1, Trios nos. 1-3
Edition HH, @Mozart Series,
HH261.FSP, Bicester, 2010 (pbk, 21)
ISMN 979 0 708092 15 5

The name Cambini first came to my notice a good few years ago while I was researching 18th- and 19th-century violin treatises. At the time I had no idea that his compositions were so numerous, or of such interest and genuine quality. Elphinstone has done a very good job bringing the disparate biographical titbits together in his Introduction to this edition (with a German translation and facsimile of a contemporary engraving of the composer). Giuseppe Cambini (1746-?1825) was well connected from the early stages of his career in Italy and then in Paris, where he demonstrated his commercial acumen as a prolific composer of the extremely popular symphonie concertante, even preventing the appearance of Mozart's K297b on the bill of the Concerts Spirituel in April 1778 (part of the contact and apparently uneasy relationship between the two men, which has resulted in this edition appearing as part of Edition HH's @Mozart series).

Aside from his theoretical writings, a significant part of Cambini's legacy is related to his woodwind chamber music. The six woodwind trios, op.45 from c1785, presented here across two volumes, are the first works of their kind. Elphinstone is very helpful in describing how they are carefully crafted for the flute, oboe and bassoon types of the day, with Cambini treating each instrument idiomatically and producing 'a rich and full blending of sonorities that at times gives the impression of a much larger ensemble' (p.vi). The Italian produces an immediately appealing, light classical style and, within each two-movement structure (in particular within no.2, the only minor-key example in the set), conjures enough melodic invention and chromatic character to remind the listener of his far more famous contemporary's prowess.

The editor has done an excellent and highly worthwhile job in collating and standardising the separate parts of the Boyer-Le Menu contemporary edition (no mean feat it would seem, and there are also detailed Textual Notes at the end of the score for those who wish to see further details). I would have no qualms in recommending these attractive little pieces to friends and colleagues: Mozart's own description of Cambini's music as 'quite pretty' says it all. In particular, the trios will appeal to those who are looking for woodwind chamber music for teaching and performance, and who wish to explore such rare gems: these pieces are ideal candidates for study and performance alongside the core repertoire. This edition is clear, thorough, and informative, and with usability and versatility at its core, it once again brings a largely forgotten composer and his repertoire to (hopefully) a much wider audience.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
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