Cervetto, Giacobbe (DNB00)

CERVETTO, GIACOBBE (1682?–1783), violoncellist, was born in Italy of Jewish parents about 1682. His real name was Basevi, but he had adopted the name of Cervetto before his arrival in England in 1738 or 1739. He played first at a concert in Hickford's Rooms, Brewer Street, Golden Square, where Festing led, but he was soon engaged for the Drury Lane orchestra, of which he was a conspicuous member until his death. Cervetto, with Caporale and Pasquali, was one of the first to popularise the violoncello in England. His tone is described as having been coarse, and his execution not remarkable; but Burney states that he was a good musician and a good man. At Drury Lane, where his large nose and a huge diamond he used to wear on the forefinger of his bow-hand made him very conspicuous, he was very popular with the audience, and it is said that the gallery cry, ‘Play up, nosey,’ owes its origin to his appearance. Cervetto published a few trios, duets, and sonatas, mostly for the violoncello. He was a constant frequenter of the Orange coffee-house, and in the early part of his London career he lodged ‘at Mr. Marie's, tobacconist, in Compton Street, Soho,’ but afterwards lived at 7 Charles Street, Covent Garden. He died, aged over one hundred, at Friburg's snuff-shop in the Haymarket, on 14 Jan. 1783. By his will he directed that his body should be buried according to the rites of the church of England. In the course of his long life Cervetto had amassed a large fortune, which is variously estimated at from twenty to fifty thousand pounds. There is a fine mezzotint of him by V. M. Picot, after Zoffany, published 16 April 1771, and a smaller portrait in H. de Janvry's ‘Miniatures of Celebrated Musicians.’

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 331; Rees's Encyclopædia; British Museum Music Catalogue; European Mag. January 1783; Gent. Mag. September 1817; Thespian Dictionary; Pohl, Mozart und Haydn in London, 54, &c.; Musical Quarterly Mag. vi. 354; Cervetto's Will, Probate Registry, communicated by Mr. J. Challoner Smith.]

W. B. S.