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Collection Cambini Quintets

About this Collection

Among the Library of Congress's musical treasures are a set of unique manuscripts by Italian composer Giuseppe Maria Gioacchino Cambini (1746-1825?) that contain music for over 100 of his string quintets. These scores were previously held in private ownership for well over a century, a fate that relegated the quintets (and hundreds of his other compositions) into total obscurity: to our knowledge, the manuscripts (likely in the composer's hand) were neither copied nor published. Over the past few decades, however, researchers have begun to uncover these treasures, resulting in the publication of a few dozen quintets as well as a handful of recordings. Until all of Cambini's string quintets are made available to the music community, however, a proper assessment of the composer's contribution to this genre and the degree to which he influenced the overall development of chamber music in France cannot be accurately determined. It is our intention, through this digital presentation, to allow this body of music the chance to now receive the scholarly consideration it deserves.

The string quintet emerged as a recognized genre in both Italy and Austria in the 1760s; Cambini was both a pioneer and one of the dominating composers of the genre, with pre-classical examples dating from the early 1770s. Works composed after 1794 for his Parisian employer, the wealthy industrialist and chemist Armand S├ęguier, embodied a fully mature classical style: most are in three movements and reflect a blend of characteristics ranging from the Italian concertant style, the use of French forms and include elements of motivic development and imitative counterpoint that are distinctively Austrian. With this combination of inclinations, his quintets have been said to possess a unique sound.