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The first professional string quartet? Reexamining an account attributed to Giuseppe Maria Cambini.


This study examines an 1804 essay about string-quartet performance published in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, and attributed to the Italian-born and Paris-domiciled composer/violinist Giuseppe Maria Cambini. The essay is frequently cited as evidence of the first professional string quartet, since it includes a detailed account of the rehearsal methods of an ensemble purported to have formed in Tuscany over a six-month period in the mid-1760s, and comprising Boccherini, Nardini, Manfredi, and Cambini as its members.

A closer examination of the evidence reveals that this so-called Tuscan Quartet is unlikely to have existed. The essay appears to be a highly embellished translation of a passing remark from Cambini's earlier Nouvelle methode theorique et pratique pour le violon (ca. 1795), possibly made at the instigation (and with the editorial intervention of) AmZ editor Johann Friedrich Rochlitz.

Although the essay is probably an unreliable source for quartet practices ca. 1765, it offers compelling testimony to an emerging quartet ideology (especially in German-speaking lands) around the time of its publication in the early nineteenth century. It may be among the earliest articulations of several influential ideas about quartets, including (1) the string quartet as an ensemble with stable personnel, (2) string-quartet repertoire as serious concert music demanding detailed rehearsal in advance of a performance for an audience, (3) unity of expression--four players sounding as one--as a goal of such rehearsal, and (4) extensive study and performance of quartets as foundational artistic training for all developing string players.


The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

--L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1)

A telling entry in Beethoven's conversation books, written by the violinist Joseph Mayseder on or around 29 April 1825, might well bring Hartley's memorable aphorism to mind. Mayseder had visited Beethoven to invite him to his upcoming performance of the Quartet in E-flat Major, op. 127. The piece was still quite new, and its premiere one month prior under Mayseder's mentor Ignaz Schuppanzigh had been a great failure. But Mayseder reassured the composer about his own upcoming performance: "It will go well / we have rehearsed it twice." (2) That two rehearsals for such a complex work were sufficient to prepare a concert that was judged successful by Beethoven's nephew, Karl, underscores the point: the practice of string-quartet rehearsals, even for concert performances of difficult repertoire, was only just beginning to emerge in the early decades of the nineteenth century, around the same time that societies for quartet performances were proliferating around Europe. (3)

Much ink has been spilled on the divide between private and public modes of music making, and how the gradual rise of public quartet performances impacted the way quartets were conceived, composed, and played. But scholarly attention has less often been devoted to the gradual emergence of quartet rehearsals that developed with the quartet's migration from the drawing room (its original habitat) to the concert hall. Although the scanty record of private musical activities makes definitive conclusions elusive, quartet playing in the late eighteenth century seems to have been by and large a culture of sight-reading, and many modern ideas about rehearsal have their roots in the early nineteenth century. (4)

Specifically, the notion of a string quartet as an ensemble with stable personnel that meets together over multiple sessions aimed at improving their playing of a particular piece in preparation for future performances to be attended by some attentive listeners--that is, what today we mean by the word rehearsal--seems to find its first articulation in an 1804 essay published in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (AmZ) and attributed to the violinist and composer Giuseppe Maria Cambini (1746-1825). (5) The essay claims that Cambini himself engaged in an extended period of such intensive quartet rehearsal and performance some four decades prior, during his youth in Italy. Although this account has frequently been cited as evidence of the first professional string quartet, a closer examination will reveal that its narrative is highly problematic. The essay's significance is, therefore, not as a reliable report of Cambini's youthful activities, but rather as evidence of an evolving ideology about quartet playing and rehearsal around the time of its publication. (6) As the earliest document (to my knowledge) to describe and advocate quartet rehearsals in something like the modern sense, it represents a decisive break from then-current practices, and reflects the nascent professionalization of quartet playing after around 1800.

This study proceeds in two stages: We begin by surveying a variety of documents ca. 1775-1800 that describe musicians sight-reading (or playing with little-to-no rehearsal) either string quartets or other music for small ensembles. Against this backdrop we will then undertake a close examination of the 1804 essay attributed to Cambini, and its account of the so-called Tuscan Quartet's rehearsals and performances in the 1760s. Readers will note that my historical survey relies in large part on documents relating to Mozart, not because his activities are taken to be representative--whatever that would mean, since "representative" quartet-playing practices varied from Vienna to Paris to London, from amateurs to professionals, from salon settings to more public spaces, etc.--but because they are an unusually well-documented record of private musical activities. (7) Moreover, these documents illustrate the domestic musical practices with which the AmZ's mostly German-speaking readership would have been familiar. Indeed, since (as I will argue) the essay reflects an ideology borne of ca. 1800 Vienna (rather than ca. 1765 Tuscany), the Mozart-related documents provide relevant testimony of the very quartet culture that Viennese advocates of quartet professionalization sought to reform.


Examining eighteenth-century documents for evidence of quartet sight-reading (or other chamber-music sight-reading) often requires some reading between the lines. Since a lack of rehearsals for domestic quartet-playing appears to have been the norm, it presumably did not generally warrant any special comment. (8) But a few explicit references to playing "a vista" or "prima vista" can be found, especially in the contexts praising individuals who sight-read particularly well. For instance, Mozart writes to his father about a certain violinist named "Menzl":
   You'll find him a very pleasant violinist who can also sight-read
   [vom Blatt lesen kann] very well;--no one in Vienna has played my
   quartets a vista as well as he has;--besides, he is the best fellow
   in the whole world, who will be delighted to make some musique with
   you whenever you like. (9)

A similarly enthusiastic report comes from an 1817 account of musical life in Venice that appeared in the Viennese Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung:
   The instrumentalists of Venice, including the dilettantes ... are
   characterized favorably by the fire of their execution, their
   steadiness, and their quick apprehension. With just two rehearsals,
   they perform the most difficult operas to the admiration of
   composers, who give preference to the Venetian Orchestra over all
   others in Italy. The dilettantes and professors also distinguish
   themselves in the precise, nuanced execution of quartets by Haydn,
   Mozart, Beethoven, Krommer, Romberg, etc., which are often played
   at sight [prima vista] with estimable perfection. (10)

This report demonstrates that a culture of sight-reading (even by amateurs, and even of challenging repertoire) continued even as a more professional quartet culture began emerging throughout Europe in the early nineteenth century.

The vast majority of documents that describe unrehearsed performances of string quartets, however, do not mention sight-reading explicitly. One such account is found in a Mozart letter describing an afternoon of chamber music lasting some four hours at the Schwarzen Adler inn, where he and his mother were staying in Munich. Among the musicians was a violinist whom Mozart had only met earlier that same day, a student of Tartini's named Charles-Albert Dupreille, who happened to be teaching a violin lesson to the innkeeper's son that morning, and who impressed Mozart with his teaching. Mozart writes:
   I therefore invited him to be so kind as to attend our little
   academy [kleinen accademie (sic)] that afternoon. We played, first
   of all, two quintets of [Michael] Hayden [sic], but to my dismay I
   could scarcely hear him; he could not play four continuous bars
   without a mistake. He could never find the positions, and he was no
   good friend to the sospirs [short pauses]. The only good thing was
   that he spoke politely and praised the quintets; otherwise--As it
   was, I said nothing to him, but he kept constantly saying himself,
   "I beg your pardon, but really I am out again! The thing is
   puzzling, but fine!" I always replied, "It doesn't matter; we are
   just among ourselves." I then played the concertos in C [Major, K.
   246], in B[flat] [Major, K. 238], in E[flat] [Major, K. 271], and
   after that a trio of mine [K. 254]. This was finely accompanied,
   truly! In the adagio I was obliged to play six bars of his part. As
   a finale, I played my last Cassation in B[flat] [Major, K. 287];
   they all pricked up their ears at this [da schauete alies gross
   drein], I played as if I had Seen the greatest violin player in all
   Europe. (11)

As in Mozart's above-cited letter about Menzl, this description of sight-reading is part of an assessment of another violinist's abilities (albeit an unflattering appraisal in this case). He was surely facetious to use the word "Academie"--the same word he would later use for his subscription concerto series in Vienna--to describe such a casual session of sight-reading with a violinist he had met only just that morning. (12) This gathering was clearly not a concert in the modern sense of the term, and from Mozart's description, it hardly seems that those in attendance listened to such blundering playing with rapt attention for hours on end. Even the word "audience" seems inappropriate here; though Mozart does refer to attendees listening attentively to his Cassation, he repeatedly reassures poor Monsieur Dupreille that "we are just among ourselves," entre nous--suggesting a fairly casual gathering. (13)

Susan Burney, the third daughter of Charles Burney, recounts a similar story but from the opposite vantage point. For instance, her journal letter of 23-26 August 1788 tells of a gathering she hosted that included a certain "Mr Scheener," a Swiss-born but English-domiciled violinist who is mentioned frequently in her journals. She expresses significant consternation at being pressured to sight-read challenging music with Schneer, without notice, in front of the guests:
   We had tea--& then a little general conversation but it soon
   flagged--there were violins, & Music, & every body longing to hear
   Scheener--& all looked towards me as being the only person who cd
   give him a Base--but think how pleasant! Terrified as I must at any
   rate have been to play wth Scheener alone, there was no music wth
   any accompts that I cd play except two of Pleyell's new lessons,
   very difficult, & wch I have not above half learn'd, both of wch M'
   Burney had played the eve& before & again that Morng--However pour
   abreger [to cut things short] I was obliged to go thro', frightened
   to death, both lessons--& then accompd as well as I cd a new trio
   of Haydn's--after wch I was half compelled to begin a lesson of
   Kozeluch's I had not seen these two years, & of wch I cd not get
   thro' the first page--& after all--suffering very unpleasant
   sensations, & forcing myself to attempt what I know I cd not
   execute, it ended as I had forseen in general
   disappointment--chiefly on the part of my dear M's Lock--who tho'
   she wd attempt nothing herself, seemed to think / ought to
   undertake everything--believing me capable of what I am not
   perhaps--but indeed fear disabled me completely--& rendered things
   difficult to me wrh alone wd have had nothing to alarm me[.] (14)

Burney's journal reminds us that some reports of players--such as Dupreille--who sight-read chamber music beyond their actual abilities, may have done so only under duress.

On the other hand, with the right players, an unrehearsed (or barely rehearsed) performance even for a relatively formal private concert could still make a strong impression. Mozart offers the following account of a performance for the Elector Friedrich August III of Saxony in Dresden, which seems to have been prepared with little more than a cursory run-through:
   My princely travel companion [Karl Lichnowsky] invited the Naumanns
   [recte: Neumanns] and Madame [Josefa] Duschek [who was also
   visiting Dresden] to lunch.--While we were at table, I received a
   message that I was to play at court the following day, Tuesday the
   14th, at 5:30 in the evening--this was quite out of the ordinary,
   for it is difficult to get an invitation to play; and, as you know,
   I wasn't counting on it at all.--We had gotten a quartet together
   at our hotel, l'hotel de Boulogne [recte: Hotel de Pologne];--the
   group included Antoine Tayber [rede: Anton Teyber, later the
   Viennese court composer], who, as you know, is organist here, and
   Herr [Anton] Kraft, a cellist, who is here with his son [Nikolaus,
   age nine, also a cellist]; he is in the service of Prince
   Esterhazy. I introduced the Trio I wrote for Herr Puchberg at this
   little musicale--and we played it quite decently; Duschek sang a
   number of arias from Figaro and Don Juan [i.e., Don Giovanni].--The
   next day I played my New Concerto in D [Major, K. 537,
   "Coronation"] at court; the following day, Wednesday, the 15th, in
   the morning, I received a very pretty snuffbox. (15)

From this sketchy account, it is difficult to sort out the precise repertoire, personnel, or even instrumentation for the chamber pieces played at the "rehearsal" session at the hotel on the 13th, or the performance at court the following evening. (16) What is clear, however, is that this concert was arranged in haste, with Mozart enlisting whoever was available, assembling a combination of local Dresden musicians (the organist Teyber, who perhaps "moonlighted" on violin, and the flutist Johann Friedrich Prinz, a member of the Dresden Court Orchestra), (17) as well as other musicians familiar to Mozart who happened to be in town (Duschek and the father-and-son cellists Kraft). Since this motley assortment of players seems to have first met only the day before the concert, with scant time for rehearsal, it is remarkable how superlatively well their performance was received. (18) Several accounts write glowingly of Mozart's keyboard playing; for example, the Musikalische Real-Zeitung reports that "his agility on the clavier and on the fortepiano is inexpressible--and to this is added an extraordinary ability to read at sight, which truly borders on the incredible" [emphasis added]. (19) Just what might Mozart have been sight-reading during this concert? A sonata with the flutist Prinz, who seemingly was not involved with the "rehearsal" the previous day? Or perhaps something requested by the elector or another guest at court as a test of Mozart's abilities? That he was sight-reading at all may reflect the limited time available for rehearsal.

While Mozart relayed the story of the shoddy quartet gathering with Dupreille as an essentially comic episode, other late-eighteenth-century authors begin to express some serious alarm at the culture of casual, unrehearsed playing in social settings. One extreme pronouncement on this issue (in reference not to a string quartet but to a Mozart piano quartet) is an anonymous 1788 essay from the Journal des Luxus und der Moden entitled "Concerning the Latest Favourite Music at Grand Concerts, especially in regard to Ladies' Predilections in Pianoforte Dilettantism." The writer (who does not specify which of Mozart's piano quartets he is describing) adopts a harshly moralistic tone to censure amateur pianists blundering through the piece in settings inappropriate for serious playing and listening. (20)
   The cry soon made itself heard: "Mozart has written a very special
   new Quadro, and such and such a Princess or Countess possesses and
   plays it!", and this excited curiosity and led to the rash resolve
   to produce this original composition at grand and noisy concerts
   and to make a parade with it invita Minerva.... [The quartet] can
   in truth hardly bear listening to when it falls into mediocre
   amateurish hands and is negligently played.--Now this is what
   happened innumerable times last winter; at nearly every place to
   which my travels led me and where I was taken to a concert, some
   young lady or pretentious middle-class demoiselle, or some other
   pert dilettante in a noisy gathering, came up with this printed
   Quadro and fancied that it would be enjoyed. But it could not
   please; everybody yawned with boredom over the incomprehensible
   tintamarre of 4 instruments which did not keep together for four
   bars on end, and whose senseless concentus never allowed any unity
   of feeling; but it had to to please [sic], it had to be praised! It
   is difficult for me to describe to you the persistence with which
   attempts were nearly everywhere made to enforce this.... [It] went
   on throughout a whole winter and (according to what I have
   additionally learned from hearsay) showed itself far too

   It deserves a public rebuke in your pages, where so many another
   fashionable idiocy, so many a misguided ostentation has already
   been justly exposed. For indeed such clumsy forwardness is not only
   unseemly, not only useless and purposeless, but it does harm to art
   and to the spread of true taste.... "This is supposed to verge on
   the extreme of excellence in art, and yet I feel tempted to block
   my ears to it frequently as I listen...." In this way is a true
   love of music spoiled, sound human reason and sound natural
   impulses misled, and that directness and thoroughness of culture
   obstructed without which no art can ever rise to and maintain
   itself on the heights.

   What a difference when this much-advertised work of art is
   performed with the highest degree of accuracy by four skilled
   musicians who have studied it carefully, in a quiet room where the
   suspension of every note cannot escape the listening ear, and in
   the presence of only two or three attentive persons! (21)

While the writer surely exaggerates just how frequently this piece was played at parties during the 1787-88 winter season, his report nevertheless confirms that casual sight-reading in noisy social settings, even for complex compositions, was a widespread practice. Such commingling of fashion and art receives a harsh reprimand, and the moralistic, patriarchal tone with which he chastises his dilettante-lady-pianist readership underscores his point: An unrehearsed performance of a fine composition at boisterous parties ultimately degrades the art of music. His call for careful, advance rehearsing prior to formal performances for small, attentive audiences of connoisseurs presages the professional chamber music societies that arose throughout Europe several decades later--and stands in sharp contrast to what he reports as the standard practices of his own day.


A similarly harsh critique of casual chamber-music culture--and of sight-reading in particular--emerges in a famous essay entitled "On the Performance of Instrumental Quartets" that appeared on the cover issue of the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on 22 August 1804. Attributed to the composer Giuseppe Maria Cambini, who hailed from Tuscany, and was active in Paris from around 1770 until about 1810, this essay may be the first source to describe a string quartet as an ensemble with fixed formation that rehearses over an extended period.

The essay opens with the assertion that quartets are as suitable as powerful concert music as symphonies are--provided that they are performed properly and listened to attentively. I will discuss each paragraph in turn:
   Whenever music does not excite or calm the emotions, it should at
   least attract our attention and thereby dispel the worries and
   cares of everyday life. In my opinion, instrumental music, without
   the support of poetry, has especially the latter purpose. But if it
   is to achieve this, then it must be well written and well executed
   [ausgefuhrt]. Haydn's symphonies, as we give [perform] them here,
   show the very matter that I am driving at with both requirements:
   no one hears them without being taken at least so far that he
   forgets his worries. The quartet, quintet, etc., can and should do
   the same, and further bestows the advantage that we can hear them
   if we are not in a large hall and do not have fifty musicians
   handy. But the perfect execution of this genre of music is as
   difficult as it is rare. Consistency of feeling and unity of
   expression, which are indispensable to the performers, are not
   achieved casually upon the first meeting [treffen sich nicht
   zufallig und beym ersten Zusammen-kommen]. Someone who [sight-]
   reads very well is often very bad at expression; if one of the
   players is cold or careless, all of the charms that the composer
   set as truly, quasi-dialogued [gleichsam dialogisirte] quartets and
   that could and should have captured our attention will be

So it is the practice of sight-reading that prevents musicians--even the finest players--from performing quartets with full expression. The essay goes on to advocate that all true musicians undergo an extended, intensive period of quartet studies as foundational training to cultivate a more nuanced, expressive manner of playing. Although this notion is widespread today, it may be expressed in this essay for the first time:
   My opinion is that in every place where there are men who truly
   love their art, and who have enough insight, practice, and feeling
   to be able to tell the real difference between a musician
   [Tonkunstler] and a mere player [Musikant] (perhaps even a very
   skillful and estimable player)--these men, I say, should definitely
   get themselves together, and study quartets and learn to execute
   them. Yes, yes, I say learn: for this will not come even to them by
   itself or instantly; I say study: for even they will not penetrate
   all the meaning in all the separate sections of such good works all
   at once. They must, working even more concordantly than do their
   instruments [noch einstimmiger als ihre Instrumente], repeat often
   the foremost works in this genre, thus learning all of the nuances
   of the intended execution--how to apply more chiaroscuro here, more
   mezzotint there, here the accent should by and by become more
   pathetic, strong, grand, or naive, or piercing, or weak; and how
   now, after such execution of the separate parts [Ausfuhrung des
   Einzelnen], the sense of the whole (and consequently of the
   composer himself) arises. Meanwhile they must put their thoughts
   together, and their egos must thereby limit themselves, producing a
   beautiful picture together. The fruits of such studies will be the
   most perfect satisfaction for them, as well as the esteem of all

The essay's emphatic use of Sperrdruck (reproduced here in italic typeface) for the words "study," "learn," and "together" evince its hortatory tone; the author is clearly fed up with the status quo and calling for something new. In contrast with the typical comparisons of quartets to conversation--a trope that originated in the 1770s and that emphasizes a certain "impromptu" aspect of each instrument's individual contribution (22)--the author underscores how intensive rehearsal allows the four players to blend together and speak as one voice. This ideal, as the goal of quartet rehearsals, seems thoroughly modern and resembles the Guarneri Quartet's description of "feel[ing] and breath [ing] as one player" and experiencing "a guiding hand ... [or] fifth presence" in performance. (23)

But it is the final portion of the essay that is the most famous and, as I will discuss, the most problematic:
   In my youth I spent six fortunate months in such study and such
   gratification. Three great masters--Manfredi, the foremost
   violinist in all Italy with respect to orchestral and quartet
   playing, Nardini, who has become so famous as a virtuoso through
   the perfection of his playing, and Boccherini, whose merits are
   well enough known, did me the honor of accepting me as a violist
   among them. In this manner we studied quartets by Haydn (those
   which now make up opera 9, 17, and 21 [recte: 20]) and some by
   Boccherini which he had just written and which one still hears with
   such pleasure; and I may say myself that, with those [pieces] that
   we had rehearsed [einstudiert] so much, we seemed like wizards to
   those for whom we played. [Even] the best actor would not dare to
   give a scene from a distinguished play without having often gone
   through it: it causes me grief, and I must shrug my shoulders
   helplessly, when I hear musicians say: Come on, let's play
   quartets!--just as lightly as one says in society: Come on, let's
   play a game of Reversis [a four-person card game, similar to
   Hearts]! Then must music indeed remain vague and without meaning,
   and it is no wonder, and no ground for complaint, when the audience
   does not wish to hear more of it--or yawns, like--the reader of my
   essay. (24)

Many scholars point to this description of Cambini's youthful, six-month period of quartet collaboration with Nardini, Manfredi, and Boccherini as evidence of the first professional string quartet. (25) If Cambini's account is true, this so-called Tuscan Quartet would have to have met in 1765 or 1766, after Nardini left his post in Stuttgart (1762-65), (26) and before Boccherini and Manfredi left Tuscany (around August 1766) for Genoa and Paris.

But there is (to my knowledge) no corroborating evidence of the quartet's existence or of its performances. Moreover, there is good reason to doubt the veracity of the essay. Most suspicious is the reference to Haydn quartets that had not even been composed, let alone published, by the mid-1760s. (27) Indeed, Cambini's biographical record--based largely on his own testimony--is riddled with inconsistencies that suggest some pervasive fabrication and self-aggrandizing. Many of his uncorroborated claims allege unlikely connections with more famous musicians, such as his dubious reports of studies with Padre Martini and Haydn. (28) Particularly bizarre is the oft-repeated story--likely originating with Cambini himself, and transmitted by Baron Grimm, Fetis, and Grove--about an episode in which Cambini and his fiancee were captured and enslaved for several months by Barbary pirates, following the unsuccessful premiere of Cambini's opera in Naples aronnd 1766--that is, precisely the same time he purportedly played in the "Tuscan" Quartet. (29) These narratives about the "Tuscan" Quartet and the pirates make for great fiction, but they cannot both be true--and in all likelihood, neither one is.

Owing to these various inconsistencies and unanswered questions, Daniel Heartz concludes that "the 'Tuscan' Quartet, as it has been

called, did not last long, if it ever existed." (30) He furthermore speculates, in a tantalizingly terse footnote, that the essay may not even be by Cambini at all, but may be a fabrication by Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, editor of the AmZ. (31) Heartz seems to imagine a scenario such as the following: After twenty-five highly prolific years in Paris, in which Cambini produced some 600 instrumental works, including 150 quartets, over 100 quintets, and 80 symphonies concertantes, Cambini's compositional activities waned in 1795, and he shifted his focus to writing about music. In his Nouvelle methode theorique et pratique pour le violon (ca. 1795-1803), in a discussion of Boccherini quartets and Haydn symphonies that compares musical performance to acting, Cambini makes the following passing remark:
   Alas! That those who hear instrumental music as meaningless noise
   could not have heard, as I did, quartets by Boccherini, Nardini,
   and myself, only too happy to play the viola! I am quite sure that
   they would speak in another way; they would avow that the dramatic
   art has always inspired these great masters, even in works which
   are not presented upon the stage. (32)

Perhaps Cambini, fearing that a fallow period in his compositional career might permanently damage his reputation, or seeking to appeal to the authority of well-known virtuosos, was motivated to engage in a little harmless "name dropping." Or perhaps he actually did play quartets with these musicians on some occasion or another. In any event, this passing remark written by Cambini (in French) could have been the basis for the later, far more elaborate version (in German), possibly created by Rochlitz to appear prominently as the AmZ's cover story. While these two sources share the comparison between instrumental music and dramatic arts, and the references to Haydn symphonies and Boccherini quartets, only the later (AmZ) essay includes the detailed account of a six-month collaboration, the problematic references to specific Haydn quartets, the emphatic insistence on the value of rehearsal, and the harsh condemnation of quartet sight-reading. To be sure, it seems doubtful that Cambini, who had tossed off quartets and quintets by the dozens (many in the form of light potpourris and operatic arrangements intended for sight-reading in Parisian salons) would in his retirement condemn so harshly the very salon culture that had embraced him for three decades.

Heartz's speculation about Rochlitz is intriguing but difficult to evaluate conclusively, as both Cambini and Rochlitz are known fabricators. Although Rochlitz was not above forging documents alleged to be by deceased individuals (such as Mozart), it would be an unprecedented level of audacity to publish an essay attributed to Cambini (who was living when the essay was published in 1804) without his involvement in some capacity. Therefore, to Heartz's hypothesis, I add my own: Perhaps the AmZ. essay is a highly embellished translation of (or gloss on) the above-quoted remark in Cambini's Nouvelle methode. As to whether these embellishments were of Rochlitz's own invention, or whether Cambini may have supplied further details in private correspondence, we can only speculate.


It should hardly be surprising that new ideas about quartet rehearsal developed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century alongside several related trends, such as (1) the proliferation of public quartet performances and subscription series, (2) the emergence of a canon of quartets deemed to be masterworks, (3) the emergence of professional quartet ensembles with comparatively stable personnel, (4) the simultaneous publication of scores and parts (from Beethoven's opus 95 on), (33) and (5) the development of a more symphonic style and rising technical demands in Beethoven's quartets in particular. (34) Direct evidence of newly evolving rehearsal practices can be found in surviving annotated parts used by quartet players during this period. These fascinating artifacts, which have only recently begun to attract scholarly attention, (35) record the most intimate details about players' nuances, preserving penciled markings made during solo practice and ensemble rehearsals.

The AmZ essay (whether written by Cambini, Rochlitz, or as some kind of collaboration between the two) remains a historically significant source as one of the earliest documents to describe and advocate for the kind of rehearsal process that has been preserved in such annotated quartet parts. Since the essay's authorship remains inconclusive, it is best read not as a factual account of Cambini's early activities (or as evidence of the first professional quartet), but as a kind of manifesto for quartet playing for the nineteenth century--an emphatic rejection for casual sight-reading among friends, and a call to professionalize quartet playing, through careful rehearsals, to a level suitable for concert performances.

(1.) Hartley's oft-cited statement, which opens the novel (London: H. Hamilton, 1953), inspired David Lowenthal's classic examination of the ways present needs inform the construction of history (Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country [New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985]).

(2.) Ludwig van Beethovens Konversationshefte, ed. Karl-Heinz Kohler, Grita Herre, et al., 11 vols. to date (Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag fur Musik, 1968-), 7:242; cited in Robert Adelson, "Beethoven's String Quartet in E Flat, op. 127: A Study of the First Performances," Music & letters 79, no. 2 (May 1998): 226. See also John M. Gingerich, "Ignaz Schuppanzigh and Beethoven's Late Quartets," Musical Quarterly 93, nos. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 2010): 450-513.

(3.) For an overview, see Christina Bashford, "The String Quartet and Society," in The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, ed. Robin Stowell, 3-18 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). In the same volume, see also Tully Potter, "From Chamber to Concert Hall," 41-59.

(4.) I advance this broad characterization while recognizing a vast gray area between sight-reading and formal rehearsal in the modern sense, similar to that between private and public modes of music making. See, for example, the discussion below of Mozart's semirehearsed performances in Dresden in April 1789.

(5.) [Giuseppe Maria Cambini ?], "Ausfuhrung der Instrumentalquartetten," Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig) 6, no. 47 (22 August 1804): cols. 781-83. I will discuss the essay's disputed authorship below.

(6.) The changing discourse about string quartets in the early decades of the nineteenth century is examined in Man' Hunter, " The Most Interesting Genre of Music': Performance, Sociability and Meaning in the Classical String Quartet, 1800-1830," Nineteenth-Century Music Review 9 (2012): 53-74.

(7.) Apart from Mozart's letters, the next best source about domestic music making in late-eighteenth-century Vienna is to be found in the diaries of Count Karl Zinzendorf (1739-1813). But since Zinzendorf writes from the perspective of a listener rather than a musician, and since his accounts tend to lack the detail of Mozart's, few clues emerge in his writings about rehearsals or sight-reading. See Dorothea Link, "Vienna's Private Theatrical and Musical Life, 1783-92, as Reported by Count Karl Zinzendorf," Journal of the Royal Musical Association 122, no. 2 (1997): 205-57.

(8.) Explicit references to keyboard sight-reading are more ubiquitous. See, for example, three episodes relayed by Mozart in letters to his father dating from October 1777 (recounted in letters dated 11, 14, and 23-25 October). See also the report (cited below) in the Musikalische Real-Zeilung about Mozart's performance in Dresden on 14 April 1789. For an overview of accounts of young Wolfgang the Wunderkind, including the famous tests of his sight-reading and improvisation skills, see Katalin Komlos, "Mozart the Performer," in The Cambridge Companion to Mozart, ed. Simon P. Keefe, 215-26 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(9.) W. A. Mozart to Leopold Mozart, Munich, 10 April 1784. All Mozart letters are from the Digital Mozart Edition (, accessed 25 February 2015), and all quotations from foreign documents are my own translations unless otherwise noted. On Menzl's likely identity, see Dorothea Link, "Mozart's Appointment to the Viennese Court," in Words about Mozart: Essays in Honour of Stanley Sadie, ed. Dorothea Link with Judith Nagley, 153-78, esp. table 9.2 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.; Rochester, NY: Bovdell Press, 2005).

(10.) "Uber den jetzigen Musikzustand in Venedigs," Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Vienna) no. 14 (3 April 1817): col. 107. This passage is all the more striking because instrumental music occupied a marginalized position in ottocento Italy, especially by comparison with Vienna. However, the critic tempers his superlative terms with a footnote that upholds the supremacy of Germans in matters of instrumental music.

(11.) W. A. Mozart to Leopold Mozart, Munich, 6 October 1777. The interpolated Kochel numbers are according to Hermann Abert, W. A. Mozart, trans. Stewart Spencer, ed. Cliff Eisen (New' Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 378. On the identity of Dubreil/Dupreille, see ibid., 378 n. 16.

(12.) In a previous letter, Mozart refers to the same event more dismissively as a "kleine schlackademie," and decries the lousy clavier at the inn ("auweh! auweh! auweh!"); W. A. Mozart to Leopold Mozart, Munich, 2 October 1777 (postscript dated 3 October). For Mozart's later usage of "Academie" for large, public concerts, see for example his letter to Leopold dated Vienna, 20 March 1784. For a contemporaneous perspective on the term, see also Heinrich Christoph Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon (Frankfurt am Main, 1802), s.v. "Akademie der Musik," cols. 94-96.

(13.) As a point of comparison, see Michael Kelly's oft-cited account of a 1784 quartet party in which the four players were merely "tolerable," but who possessed some "science [i.e., knowledge] among them," as evidenced by their names: Haydn, Dittersdorf, Mozart, and Vanhal (Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, of the King's Theatre, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, written by Theodore Hook from material furnished by Kelly, 2 vols. [London, 1826], 1:240-41). In Kelly's generous telling, written over four decades later, it is clear that the middling (and evidently unrehearsed) playing did not hamper the revelry at this festive gathering.

(14.) The Journals and Letters of Susan Burney: Music and Society in Late Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Philip Olleson (Farnham, Surrey, Eng.; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 210. Olleson suggests that the Haydn trio in question is likely the Trio in E-flat, Hob. XV/10, and that the cello part would have been dispensed with. I thank Rohan H. Stewart-Macdonald for bringing this episode from Burney's journal to my attention.

(15.) W. A. Mozart to Constanze Mozart, Dresden, 16 April 1789.

(16.) Regarding the "Puchberg" trio, which Mozart first mentioned in a letter to Michael Puchberg dated Vienna, 17 June 1789: Scholars have disputed whether the trio in question is the Divertimento in E-flat Major for string trio, K. 563, or the Piano Trio in G Major, K. 542. Contrasting views emerge in the prefaces to the respective volumes of the Neue Mozart-Ausgahe; see Dietrich Berke and Marius Flothuis's preface to VIII/21 (including the string trio), and Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm's preface to VIII/22 (the piano trios). See also Berke, "Nochmals zum Fragment eines Streichtrio-Satzes in G-Dur KV Anh. 66 (562e)," Acta Mozartiana 29, no. 2 (1982): 42-47.

(17.) Prinz is not mentioned in Mozart's letter, but he is named in an account from the Journal des Dresdener Hofmarschallamtes (14 April 1789), quoted in Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary Biography, trans. Eric Blom, et al. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965), 339. Prinz is listed in a roster of the Dresden Court Orchestra from 1794 included in Laurie H. Ongley, "The Reconstruction of an 18th-Century Basso Group," Early Music 27, no. 2 (May 1999): 271.

(18.) It should be noted, however, that public symphonic and concerto performances were commonly "rehearsed" just once, in what must have been what we would call a run-through rather than rehearsal. Even a single preparatory session could not always be taken for granted; for example, when Haydn sent scores of his Symphonies nos. 95 and 96 from London to Vienna to prepare for a performance, he included a letter with the following request: "Please tell Herr [Franz Bernhard Ritter von] Keess that I ask him respectfully to have a rehearsal of both these Symphonies, because they are very delicate, especially the last movement of that in D major [no. 96], for which I recommend the softest piano and a very quick tempo" (Franz Joseph Haydn to Marianne von Genzinger, London, 17 November 1791; quoted in translated version in H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols. [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976-80], 3:107). James Webster discusses this letter in "Haydn's Aesthetics," in The Cambridge Companion to Haydn, ed. Caryl Clark (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 39. Likewise, Leopold Mozart describes the premiere performance of Wolfgang's Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466, "which the copyist was still copying when we arrived, and your brother didn't have time to play through the rondeau because he had to supervise the copyist" (Leopold Mozart to Maria Anna Mozart, Vienna, 16 February 1785). Most striking in Leopold's report is his matter-of-fact tone, indicating that such an extreme copyist's delay was not unheard of. Apparently even a single run-through before a public performance was sometimes a luxury to be dispensed with!

(19.) Quoted in translated version in Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary Biography, 347. Another superlative report of Mozart's keyboard playing at this concert appears in the Magazin der Sachsichen Geschichte aufs Jahr 1789, quoted in New Mozart Documents: A Supplement to O. E. Deutsch's Documentary Biography, ed. Cliff Eisen (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), 56-57.

(20.) Although the essay repeatedly refers to "Concerten" in both its title and body, the context reveals that the writer is primarily speaking of parties and social gatherings where music was played, rather than "concerts" in the modern sense.

(21.) "Uber die neueste Favorit-Musik in groBen Concerten, sonderlich in Rucksicht auf Damen-Kunst, in Clavier-Liebhaberey (An die Herausgeber des Journals)," Journal des Luxus und der Moden (Weimar), June 1788, pp. 230-33; English translation from Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary Biography, 317-18.

(22.) An overview of the quartet-as-conversation tradition appears in Ludwig Finscher, Studien zur Geschichte des Streichquartetts, vol. 1, Die Entstehung des klassischen Streichquartetts: Von den Vorformen zur Grundlegung durch Joseph Haydn, Saarbriicker Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, Bd. 3 (Kassel: Barenreiter, 1974), 279-301. See also Edward Klorman, "Multiple Agency in Mozart's Chamber Music" (Ph.D. diss., City University of New York, 2013), 16-58. For a perceptive critique of this metaphor, see W. Dean Sutcliffe, "Haydn, Mozart and Their Contemporaries," in The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, 185-209.

(23.) The Art of Quartet Playing: The Guameri Quartet in Conversation with David Blum, ed. David Blum (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 168-71. The essay's assertion that such a nuanced performance allows the players to experience an expression "of the composer himself" likewise anticipates aspects of Edward T. Cone, The Composer's Voice, The Ernest Bloch Lectures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).

(24.) [Cambini?], "Ausfuhrung der Instrumentalquartetten."

(25.) Elisabeth Le Guin acknowledges certain irregularities in the essay's reference to Haydn's quartets (which I discuss below), but accepts the basic account of the quartet with Nardini, Manfredi, and Boccherini, stating that the ensemble met precisely in 1765 in Milan (Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006], 207-8). She writes that the quartet toured together and that Boccherini's opus 2 quartets were created specifically for these players. Although Boccherini and Manfredi traveled as a duo beginning in 1766, I am not aware of evidence that the quartet engaged in a tour or gave public performances. Mara Parker does not mention touring, but asserts that the quartet performed publicly in Milan, without providing further details or citations (The String Quartet 1750-1797: Four Types of Musical Conversation [Aldershot, Hamps, Eng.; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002], 29). Giorgio Pestelli (who also regards Boccherini's seemingly concomitant composition of opus 2 as strong evidence of this ensemble's existence) writes that this quartet "deve essere stato un importante punto di riferimento per l'Italia strumentale fra Lombardia e Toscana" (L'eta de Mozart e de Beethoven, rev. ed., vol. 7 of Storia della musica [Torino: Edizioni di Torino, 1991], 141). See also John H. Baron, Chamber Music: A Research and Information Guide, 2d ed., Routledge Music Bibliographies (New York: Routledge, 2002) 283-84; Michelle Garnier-Panafieu, "Le quatuor a cordes au temps de Mozart: Trajectories et specificites," in Cordes et claviers au temps de Mozart: Actes des rencontres internationales harmoniques, Lausanne 2006 = Bowed and Keyboard Instruments in the Age of Mozart: Proceedings of the Harmoniques International Congress, Lausanne 2006, ed. Thomas Steiner, Publikationen der Schweizerischen Musikforschenden Gesellschaft = Publications de la Societe suisse de musicologie, Ser. 2, vol. 53 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), 56-57; Janet M. Levy, "The Quatuor concertant in Paris in the Latter Half of the Eighteenth Century" (Ph D. diss., Stanford University, 1971), 37-38; Tully Potter, "From Chamber to Concert Hall," in The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, 53; and Maurice W. Riley, The History of the Viola, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Ann Arbor, MI: printed by Braun-Brumfield, 1991), 2:185.

(26.) In fact, the window of dates when this quartet could possibly have met may be yet more narrow than the six-month period claimed by Cambini, and the 1765 date asserted by Le Guin seems unlikely. After Nardini left Stuttgart in 1765, he traveled to the court of Brunswick, only returning to his native Livorno in May 1766, just a few months before Boccherini and Nardini left. See Daniel Heartz, Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1120-1780 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 968.

(27.) Le Guin proposes that Cambini must have meant Haydn's Divertimenti opp. 1 and 2, which had already been published in Paris (Boccherini's Body, 207). Dieter Lutz Trimpert charitably suggests that Cambini may simply have been confused, stating that it is "durchaus nicht unwahrscheinlich" that Cambini played Haydn quartets while still in Italy, but that he almost certainly played them later on after moving to Paris, and may have mixed up the chronology in his mind (Die Quatuors concertants von Giuseppe Cambini, Mainzer Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, 1 [Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1967], 10-12).

(28.) Chappell White, Jean Gribenski, and Amzie D. Parcell, "Cambini, Giuseppe Maria," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1980), 3:639-40. For a more detailed discussion of the problems of Cambini's biography, see Trimpert, Die Quatuors concertants von GAuseppe Cambini, 9-22. On Mozart's distrust of Cambini, see the letter to his father dated Paris, 1 May 1778.

(29.) Cambini's proximity to Baron Grimm suggests an autobiographical origin for this myth; see the entry for "aout 1776" in Friedrich Melchior, Freiherr von Grimm, Correspondan ce litteraire, 2d ed., 6 vols. (Paris, 1812), 3:209. This story was widely transmitted, including in Frangois-Joseph Fetis, Biographic universelle des musiciens, 2d ed., 8 vols. (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1875-78), 2:162; and in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, by Eminent Writers, English and Foreign, ed. George Grove, 4 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1890), 1:299; originally issued in parts, 1878-89. The dating of Cambini's Neapolitan opera to 1766 is from Grove. See also Trimpert, Die Quatuors concertants von Giuseppe Cambini, 13.

(30.) Heartz, Music in European Capitals, 969. See also White, et al., "Cambini, Giuseppe Maria."

(31.) Music in the European Capitals, 969 n. 129.

(32.) Cambini, Nouvelle methode theorique et pratique pour le violon (Paris, ca. 1795-1803), 22. The treatise does not list a publication date; it is often cited as "c. 1795-1803," but Robin Stowell gives the date as 1803 in Violin Technique and Performance Practice in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, Cambridge Musical Texts and Monographs (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985; reissued in paperback, 1990), 39 n. 3. This chapter from Cambini's Nouvelle methode forms a central thread in Le Guin's Boccherini's Body, see pp. 86-88, and passim.

(33.) Finscher, Studien zur Geschichte des Streichquartetts, 297-99. On a related point, see Cecil Hopkinson, "The Earliest Miniature Scores," Music Revino 33 (1972): 138-44, which chronicles the emergence of the "pocket" chamber-music score around 1840; and Bashford, "The String Quartet and Society," 329 n. 25.

(34.) Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966), 151-52. The extreme technical demands of Beethoven's op. 59 quartets were noted in an early review of the first performances (see Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung [Leipzig] 25, [18 March 1807]: col. 400). The special demands of Beethoven's quartets were also mentioned by Karl Holz, second violinist of the Schuppanzigh Quartet, who told the composer "we always rehearse only your quartets, not Haydn's and Mozart's, which go better without rehearsal" (see Ludwig van Beethovens Konversationshefte, 8:259; cited in Gingerich, "Ignaz Schuppanzigh and Beethoven's Late Quartets," 466 n. 70).

(35.) One major impetus behind such study is the Collection of Historical Annotated String Editions (CHASE) project directed by Clive Brown and Bryan White at the University of Leeds (http://chase Fabio Morabito's recent discovery of marked quartet parts used by Pierre Baillot's quartet is discussed insightfully in his dissertation, entitled "Performing Sociability: Ideas of Authorship in Parisian Chamber Music Culture under the Bourbon Restoration" (Ph.D. diss., Kings College, University of London, forthcoming).

Edward Klorman is assistant professor of music theory and viola at Queens College, City University of New York. He also teaches music analysis and coaches chamber music at The Juilliard School. His book, Mozart's Music of Friends: Social Interplay in the Chamber Works is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
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