FOR THE BENEFIT OF ANTONIO KAMMELL
Though Kammell had performed as a soloist on at least two occasions, in a concert at Stamford and in the guise of Signor Carmellino in Edinburgh, the first concert in which he was featured as the star performer was advertised in March 1768.
“For the Benefit of ANTONIO KAMMELL. At the Thatch’d House Tavern, St James Street, on Thursday, March 24th, will be a great Concert of Vocal and Instrumental MUSIC, By the most capital Performers, Tickets, Half a guinea each to be held at Welcker’s Music Shop, Gerrard Street, Soho, Where may be had, composed by Mr Kammell, Six Sonatas for two violins and a Bass, and six Duets for two Violins, Price of each 10s 6d.” (FREEMANOVA 1)
Almack’s Assembly Room
This concert was twice postponed, and actually took place on the 6th May at Almack’s Room. The new advertisement shows that this had become a much more impressive and attractive affair. The original announcement mentions no-one but Kammell – which implies that he was already well known enough to attract an audience, presumably from appearances as part of the orchestra or as a soloist in an odd item or two at other concerts. In the final version the venue had been changed to a larger room, the scene of Bach and Abel’s concerts, rather than the Thatched House tavern and the music would be under direction of Bach and Abel.
This was far more like the launch of a career, supported by the best and most highly respected musicians in London. The music was to be entirely new. This must be taken to mean that this was not only the launch of Kammell as virtuoso, but also as a composer, which makes the whole occasion doubly significant.
From this time on he would be listed as much as a composer as violinist, and concert advertisements from 1769 onwards would announce new “Overtures” (which would have been symphonies, in effect, but of modest size to suit the English taste), concertos and chamber music. In the months since he had last been last visible, at the Mann’s house in Kent, he must have been very busy composing new works, including these orchestral overtures and concertos. There is a possibility that these works are lost. Two violin concertos were published in Paris. The first orchestral pieces to be published in England did not appear until 1775, as a set of Overtures (Symphonies) Op. 10, but he clearly had a repertoire of orchestral works from the time of this grand Benefit concert.
As the original notice says, his first two publications were now available for sale. The “Six Sonatas for two violins and a Bass” were the Op. 1 set, dedicated to Lady Lucy Mann a year before. The Duets were his Op. 2, the first of several sets of duets for violins. These have no known dedication. These works are designed to be practical. The Trios are relatively simple, the duets slightly more difficult, but the violin parts do not represent the kind of music he would have played in public himself. There is nothing virtuosic in them, or in the expressive style of Adagios which made all the ladies fall in love. The later published Violin solo sonatas, Op. 9, are far more showy, even at times excessively so, and do have opportunities for sentiment. They are the public Kammell.
Kammell’s gratitude to Lady Lucy Mann had inspired him to dedicate his Op. 1 to her rather than Count Waldstein, but his next published work to appear would be a second set of Trios, Op. 2, which were dedicated to the Count. These did not appear until 1769, but the publication date is not any guide to when the music was actually written. Kammell had to pay for publication himself and the production of the hand engraved editions must have been a slow process. The Pantomime which he claimed to have performed in Edinburgh in 1766 did not appear in print until 1775, assuming it is the same work. The new composer had certainly been busy, perhaps in the delightful setting of Bourne Place, and he already had a body of work ready by the time of this concert.
The advertisement for this Benefit mentions an Overture by “the Princess Dowager of Saxony”, Maria Antonia, the generous friend of the glamorous Miss Chudleigh. This is the only known performance of a work by Maria Antonia in London in this period. The inclusion of this overture is surely designed to show that this is a very superior event and to associate Mr Kammell with European aristocracy.
The work by the Princess was almost certainly the overture to her opera “Talestri.” This was included in a publication which Kammell was responsible for – a set of six Overtures by composers other than himself which appeared in 1773. This collection also included two works by Haydn, though one was wrongly attributed to Vanhal, one by Vanhal himself, one by Stamitz and one by Myslivicek, who had been a protegee of Count Waldstein some years earlier. This collection must show the kind of music which Kammell performed and by which he would have been influenced.
It was well worth postponing the unassuming concert intended for the Thatched House tavern so that it could be re-invented as something so grand.
Kammell wrote that:
“My Concert is over and it defeated all the other concerts (given) here, my profit from it was 400 gineas, I am very well, but it is pretty hard work.”
A guinea in 1766 would be worth about £150 today, so this would be worth about £60,000.
Though he had married a poor young lady he seemed to have no financial worries. In July 1768 he was able write that:
“It is true that I make each year more than 6 to 7,000 guldens, but the expenses are very high, everybody appreciates me, everybody likes me, and this is why I have such a quantity of good friends.” (FREEMANOVA 1)
He writes as if had given another concert since his previous letter, though there is no sign of this in the Calendar of Concerts in London 1750-1800.
“My concert…was the best one, I had there more than 500 friends, my profit was 350 guineas, I have never seen so much money in my life.”