MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK
Download: Classicsonline


Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (1700/01-1775)
Sonata a 4° Stromenti in C (JC 7) [07:50]
Avertura a 4° Stromenti in D (JC 14) [05:52]
Overtura à 6 in F (JC 33) [06:36]
Sonata a 4° Stromenti in A (JC 65) [09:01]
Overtura a 4° Stromenti in F (JC 36) [09:52]
Overtura a 4° Stromenti in c minor (JC 9) [08:56]
Sinfonia a 4° Stromenti in G (JC 39) [10:04]
Sinfonia in D (JC 15) [04:40]
Overtura a 4° Stromenti in F (JC 37) [09:53]
Orchestra da Camera Milano Classica/Roberto Gini
rec. January 2005, Palazzina Liberty, Milan, Italy. DDD
DYNAMIC CDS460 [72:56]
Experience Classicsonline

The symphony is one of the most important genres in the repertoire of today's orchestras. In descriptions of the history of this genre the name of Giovanni Battista Sammartini is often referred to as someone who played an important role in the development of the classical symphony. No less than Joseph Haydn, the first composer of symphonies which have come to be very much part of today's orchestral repertoire, acknowledged his debt to Sammartini in his own development as a symphonist. In the light of this it is remarkable that Sammartini's own contributions are almost completely ignored. One reason for this is that relatively few them are available in modern editions. But thanks to Bathia Churgin and Newell Jenkins we at least know which orchestral works Sammartini wrote - hence the "JC" in the tracklist, referring to the thematic catalogue.

As he is not that well-known it is useful to give some biographical information. Sammartini was the seventh of eight children of Alexis Saint-Martin, a French oboist who had emigrated to Italy. He was probably born in Milan, where he worked most of his life. It is assumed he received his first musical education from his father. It is not therefore surprising that he and his older brother Giuseppe landed their first jobs as oboists in an orchestra in Milan. In 1728 he became maestro di cappella of the Congregazione del SS Entierro. Soon he developed into one of Milan's leading composers of church music. An almanac in the 1770s mentions him as maestro di cappella of no fewer than eleven churches.

He also wrote secular vocal music, including operas, and instrumental works. He was one of the first in Europe to write symphonies. His music was widely admired: in 1738 a symphony was performed in Amsterdam, another in the famous concert series in Paris, the Concert Spirituel. He also saw his music being published in Paris and London. In England his oeuvre was especially popular. An inventory of the court of the Esterházys mentions two of his symphonies, and it is probably through these that Haydn became acquainted with his symphonic works.

The early examples of the genre are close to the Italian opera overture, with its three movements: fast - slow - fast. This connection is underlined by the titles of some of Sammartini's early symphonies as recorded here. Most are for strings and bc, with two additional horns in the fast movements of the Overtura à 6 (JC 33). The programme notes say: "In time some modifications were added to the original including notably the addition of horns (adopted here)". They don't say whether these additions were made by Sammartini himself or by someone else.

Not only in name but also in style many of the pieces here are closer to the opera overture of the baroque era. As is noted in the booklet there are some similarities to the style of Vivaldi, but Sammartini's musical language is by and large quite original. One of specific aspects is that often the two violin parts are independent of each other, although imitation between the two parts regularly appears in these symphonies. The opening movement of the very first piece on the disc offers a good example. The use of rhythm is also often inventive, as in the first movement of the Avertura in D (JC 14). Sammartini shows creativity in the use of harmony, and there is a lot of expression in the slow movements.

It is good news that this disc is part of a recording project covering all Sammartini's symphonies. There are other activities in this regard which are worth mentioning. These include the recording of Sammartini's late symphonies by the Accademia d'Arcadia, directed by Alessandra Rossi Lürig (Brilliant Classics). I have to say that, although the early and the late symphonies are difficult to compare, I like the latter recording better than the one reviewed here. Roberto Gini is a leading representative of historical performance practice in Italy, and therefore it is a little surprising that he has chosen to record Sammartini's early symphonies with modern instruments. The players try to play in the style of period instrument ensembles, but the results are somewhat disappointing. I particularly miss the dynamic accents other ensembles are able to introduce into their performances - even those which are also using modern instruments, like the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam. Two of the items on this disc, the Avertura in D (JC 14) and the Sinfonia in G (JC 39), have also been recorded by the Ensemble 415, directed by Chiara Banchini (Harmonia Mundi). These performances are much better, in use of dynamics, choice of tempi and overall sound of the string instruments. About the third movement of the Sinfonia in G the programme notes say: "the Allegro assai 'madly gives rein to the promptings of fervid fantasy'", but far too little of that is noticeable in this performance. Here as in some other movements the interpretation is surprisingly flat.

The booklet lacks any information about the ensemble which seems to be rather small. There is nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't excuse the thin sound it produces. I am also not very happy about the acoustic which is a shade on cavernous side. Another aspect which bothers me is the strong division between the left and the right channel. If one listens through headphones - which many people do these days, playing their discs on their PC or notebook - it is really annoying to hear the first violins only in the left ear and the second violins only in the right.

I don't want to sound too negative: this is an important release, and there is certainly a lot to enjoy. It is just disappointing that the performance doesn't fully reveal the quality of Sammartini's music. I sincerely hope that a real top-class ensemble on period instruments will record Sammartini's symphonies. Only then we will be able to discover his real importance as a composer.

Johan van Veen

see also Review by Brian Wilson


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.