Louis Abbiate was born in Monaco in 1866 into a family of musicians. Orphaned at an early age, he went to live with his uncle, the Count Jean de Nicollin. He received a classical primary education from the Jesuits and began his training as a musician under the instruction of the choirmaster, a relative of his, Fr. Borghini. He studied organ, piano, harmony, and, from Pendola, the cello. By the age of 12 he held the organ position in the Chapel of the Visitation, and was accompanying religious ceremonies on the cello.
At 13 his uncle sent him to Turin to study music exclusively at the Conservatory. There he formed a quartet, became principle cellist of the local Opera Orchestra, and at 15 won a double prize for cello and harmony. The following year he enrolled in the Conservatory of Paris, and studied under Franchomme and Delsart, a pupil of the great cellist, Servais. Having paid his way playing cafe-concerts and in theaters, he left at the age of 20 with the First Prize in cello. He returned to Monaco as a soloist in the Orchestra, but within a few years he was drawn back to Paris, taking the solo cello position in the Opera-Comique in 1891.
In 1894 he began a career as an international solo virtuoso. During this time he developed an outstanding recital series in which he played the masterpieces for cello, outlining its history, in successive recitals. He was received with enthusiasm in the major cities of Europe where he was considered, because of his virtuosity, the Paganini of the cello.
Despite success in the early years, he became disillusioned when his music compositions were not received well by the public. One especially painful experience was the premiere of his Cello Concerto in 1898. Rioting and disruption broke out during his performance and it so unsettled him that he never returned to Paris as a solo performer. Eventually he made his way back to Italy where for several years he was Toscanini's solo cellist, and also focused on chamber music and composition.
In 1911 he accepted an offer to become professor of the cello at the Saint Petersberg Conservatory. These productive and happy years came to an end after the October Revolution. Finally, in 1920, Abbiate lost almost everything when he left Russia on one of the last trains, allowed to take nothing more than a suitcase, a box of manuscripts and his cello. Back in Paris his life became even darker as he struggled to make a living and lost his son.
A ray of light shone on him when Monaco opened a new School of Music, and he became the Managing Director. He remained in that position until his death on July 23rd, 1933. In total, he wrote 115 compositions: for cello, piano, symphony orchestra, as well as liturgical and other works.
[Notes from former recordings.]