Balthazar Ensemble
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French Influences
(1746–after 1818)
Allegro Maestoso
Larghetto sostenuto
Rondo: Allegro con brio
Menuetto - Trio
Andante sostenuto
Adagio - Allegro assai
Menuette Allegro - Trio
Finale Allegro
The works in this programme are all products of the wind quintet's first flowering in post revolutionary Paris.
Giuseppe Maria Cambini (1746 - c. 1825) was probably born in Livorno. After that the details of his his life become even more sketchy. In his autobiography Cambini relates the story of a journey to Napoli (around 1767), where indeed, he may have made his debut. At this point the yarn becomes decidedly more lurid: he claims to have been captured by pirates, sold as a slave, and finally redeemed by a rich Venetian merchant in Spain.

In any case, at some point he moved to Paris, where he played at the Concert Spirituel in May 1773. Incidently his death is also shrouded in obscurity and may have been as early as 1818 (in a poor house, or possibly as a result of something more sinister.) He was both popular and prolific, and amongst his many works for winds are included at least 28 Symphonies Concertantes. This form was particularly popular in France, and had a deep influence on his wind quintets.

Unfortunately today Cambini is remembered foremost as the catalyst behind the loss of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (K297b) for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra during the 1778 season of the Concert Spirituel. Prompted by Cambini, the concert director Joseph Le Gros cancelled a performance of Mozart's sinfonia and substituted a work of Cambini's for the same combination. Mozart's work has never resurfaced.

Cambini prospered - his works were performed by the Concert Spirituel and the Concert des Amateurs; he became composer of the Royal Chapel, then in 1788 the music director of the Théâtre des Beaujolais - which was closed in 1791 - and finally director of the Théâtre des Louvois till the 1794, when the theatre became bankrupt. While many other foreign artists did not adapt themselves to the new revolutionary regime, Cambini seemed to fit in seamlessly; he composed patriotic hymns and songs for which the Education Committee paid 2000 livres.

After 1800 he took up musical criticism: he wrote for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (1803-1805) and for the Parisian magazine Les tablettes de Polymnie (1810-1811). This is the last definite information we have about his life. There are two hypothesis about the date and place of his death: some believe he died in the mental hospital of Bicêtre on December 29th 1825. Others believe that he died in the Netherlands in 1818.

Cambini published his set of Trois Quintetti Concertans for flûte, hautbois, clarinette, cor et bassoon in Paris in 1802 and dedicated them to the clarinetist, Jean Xavier Lefèvre. Together the works constitute the first known set of quintets for a set of five single wind instruments to be composed after the seminal Eb Major Quintet of c. 1780 (for flute, oboe, clarinet, dalie [cor anglais], and bassoon) by Franz Anton Rosetti (1746-1792), Cambini's contemporary.

These are ambitious wind quintets, remarkably so given that they are the earliest known examples composed for the now standard combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. So who played with the clarinetist Jean Xavier Lefèvre in the first performances? Possibly his colleagues at the Paris Conservatoire and Opéra, the oboist Antoine Sallantin; the hand horn player, Frédéric Duvernoy; and the bassoonist, François-René Gebauer.

Each of the three quintets is structurally unique: Quintet No 1 is inspired by the structure of the Sinfonia Concertante, Quintet No. 2 is a study in Sonata Form, and Quintet No. 3 also takes Sonata Form as the basis of the first two movements, but concludes with a Rondo. All three works demonstrate that Cambini was very comfortable with the possibilties of the five wind instruments for which he composed. The works are light-hearted and classical in spirit, but their form points firmly forward; they bridge the past and the future, fusing classical style with a romantic sound world.

François René Gebauer (1773-1845) probably took part in the first performance ever of a traditional wind quintet. He was a bassoonist and composer who played with the Paris Opera orchestra, and was famed for the beauty of his tone. Professor at the Paris Conservoire from 1795-1802, and then from 1827-1838, he missed performing with Reicha's wind quintet, but wrote three of his own, along with much wind music and a bassoon tutor.
Antonín Reicha (1770-1836), although not the first to compose for the wind quintet, was undeniably the man responsible for its unique popularity during the early years of the nineteenth century. He became one of the Paris Conservatoire's most respected professors — amongst his students were Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Henri Brod (oboe virtuoso and composer), Georges Onslow, Charles Gounod, Louise Farrenc (the first woman to be appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire) and Cesar Franck. He taught several generations of composers who responded to his massive output (he composed at least 28 wind quintets during his lifetime) by adding to the repertoire themselves.

He was born in Prague, but from the age of ten lived with his uncle Josef Reicha, a prominent cellist and composer at the court of the Öttingen-Wallersteins at Castle Harburg near Ansbach. In 1785 Josef Reicha and his family moved to the Court of the Elector of Cologne in Bonn where Josef took up the prestigious appointment of Kapellmeister (the Elector Maximilian Franz Habsburg was the brother of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II.) Antonín was given the second flute position in his uncle's orchestra, where he met Ludwig van Beethoven (who sat at the back of the viola section) with whom he became lifelong friends.

By 1795 Reicha was in Hamburg teaching piano, harmony, and composition. It was there that he read mathematics and philosophy and began to reflect seriously upon pedagogy. Giacomo Meyerbeer, Robert Schumann and Bedrich Smetana are all known to been influenced by Reicha's treatises.

In 1801 he travelled to Vienna, where he was reunited with his friends Beethoven and Haydn. During his stay, Reicha came under the influence of the Mannheim School, and also that of Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart. He studied with both Albrechtsberger and Salieri. By 1808 Reicha had moved permanently to Paris where he remained until his death.

Reicha's great cycle of 24 quintets were written for five professors at the Paris Conservatoire - all outstanding musicians, renowned for their virtuosity. Reicha obviously had a high level of performance in mind when writing his quintets, which are amongst the most difficult pieces in the early repertoire.

The 24 published wind quintets were composed between the years 1811 and 1820. In 1815 a group was formed for the singular purpose of performing Reicha's Quintets at a series of subscription concerts. These were held in the foyer of the Théâtre Italien until 1819.

These concerts were massively popular, they attracted a cult following and created a sensation; the whole of Parisian society longed to be at the first performances of the newest Reicha quintet. Reicha held a place of great honor in French society. He was welcome in the most important artistic and literary salons, and contemporary French novelists mention the performance of Reicha's wind quintets in their books.

As a composer Reicha was obsessed with fugue, especially double fugue. He preferred to work with old-fashioned forms, but pushed them to their very limits; he layered polytonality, polyrhythm and the leitmotiv over the musical forms of the previous century, combining eastern european folk melodies with eighteenth century hardcore counterpoint on a symphonic scale to produce something very modern — a phenomonen which grabbed the attention of the Parisian public as well as that of its aspiring composers.

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