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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Sammartini Concertos
Giuseppe SAMMARTINI (1693 - 1751)

Concerto C major for violoncello piccolo, strings and b.c.
Trio F major for 2 recorders and b.c.
Concerto E flat major for oboe, strings and b.c.
Concerto F major for soprano recorder, strings and b.c.
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (1698-1775)

Sonata D major for transverse flute, 2 violins and b.c.
Trio D major for 2 transverse flutes and b.c.
Camerata Köln: Michael Schneider / soprano recorder, alto recorder, transverse flute; Sabine Bauer / alto recorder, harpsichord; Karl Kaiser / transverse flute; Hans-Peter Westermann / oboe; Mary Utiger, Ursula Bundies / violins; Hajo Bäß, Claudia Steeb / viola; Rainer Zipperling / violoncello, violoncello piccolo; Nicholas Selo / violoncello; Dane Roberts / violone; Harald Hoeren / harpsichord, organ
Rec. Germany 2002
RCA VICTOR CD 05472 77852 2 [59:26]
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I will get the gripes out of the way at the start. The front cover of the CD bears the title Sammartini Concertos - two words - each of which is misleading. The first word the - composer - turns out to be two composers for there are works by Giuseppe and Giovanni, the Sammartini brothers (although I have known musicians who thought they were one composer known as G. Sammartini!). The second word which describes the works is wrong (or half right if you like) for there are three concertos on the disc, two trios and a sonata. What could confuse the issue is that in the 18th century the word sonata was sometimes used in its old fashioned sense of ensemble piece and was therefore interchangeable with concerto. The notes in the booklet say nothing of this and anyway, the Sonata in D for flute, two violins and continuo by Giovanni is indeed just that and his Trio in D a straight trio sonata. Another problem is that the works of both brothers were sometimes published in different arrangements. For example, some of Giuseppe’s chamber sonatas were re-arranged by the Italian composer, Fernando Barsanti, into concertos. So, already suspicious, I tried to cross reference the works with listings in the Grove Dictionary of Music but was not able to do so with confidence since there is little in the booklet notes to go on.

The notes, poorly translated from German, refer to soprano and alto recorders which would confuse the British (a smallish part of our international readership) who would know these as descant and treble respectively. Also, readers might be led to believe that the concerto for "violoncello piccolo, strings and b.c." has a missing comma and is a piece for cello and piccolo (there’s a thought!) rather than for a rare single instrument which is a species of small cello. There is nothing about this instrument nor about what kind of cello is used in the recording.

Having got that out of the way, we have an enjoyable disc of a range of music from two talented and influential brothers who inhabited a transitional period between baroque and early classical. Their career paths were quite different, Giovanni being born and then dying in Milan while Giuseppe eventually settled in bustling London for the last twenty or so years of his life. Giuseppe’s more cosmopolitan existence is reflected in his music on the disc which displays a pragmatic ability to adjust his style. The violoncello piccolo concerto, for example, is very italianate, clearly influenced by Vivaldi whereas his delightful oboe concerto, excellently played by Hans-Peter Westermann, is more Handelian in style. His recorder concerto is also very tuneful and is a standard repertoire piece for skilled players. Michael Schneider is a distinguished performer and I thought his playing one of the best things about the disc which otherwise contains renderings that are highly competent but not particularly special. He features also in Giuseppe’s Trio in F major for 2 recorders which for me was the most enjoyable work in spite of its three movements lasting little more than five minutes. The slow movement with the recorders’ clashing semi-tones and tones is exquisitely intense.

Giovanni died a quarter of a century after his brother and his two chamber works here (he does not get a concerto on this disc of "concertos"!) were probably written after his brother’s death and are understandably more classical in feel. Both involve transverse flute and I liked the spirited playing in works that I found neatly formed but relatively dull compared with brother Giuseppe’s contributions.

John Leeman

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