Concerto in F, for soprano recorder and strings [13:09]
Sonata no.11 in F, for recorder and continuo [13:04]
Sonata no.21 in B flat, for recorder and continuo [7:45]
Sonata no.23 in F, for recorder and continuo [10:38]
Sonata in A minor, for cello and continuo [11:15]
Trio Sonata no.4 in G, for 2 recorders and continuo, op.1 [10:59]
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI
Sonata in D minor, for harpsichord [4:35]
Collegium Pro Musica/Stefano Bagliano (recorder)
rec. Santa Maria del Prato church, Genoa, Italy, 28-30 September
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94157 [71:34]
Like many labels, Brilliant have still not realised the potential
for confusion to be had by labelling a disc simply "Sammartini".
On seeing the name, the average listener will presume quite
reasonably - as did this reviewer
a few years back - that Giovanni Battista is indicated, not
his less well-known older brother Giuseppe - much in the same
way that "Haydn" is universal shorthand for Joseph
rather than Michael.
Though Giovanni Battista was longer-lived and his music better
known today, Giuseppe was the more cosmopolitan of the two,
spending the last nearly 25 years of his life in London, where
he mingled with a good many influential composers from different
countries anxious to take advantage of the more liberal arts
scene in England.
Unlike Giovanni, Giuseppe was wholly a composer of the Baroque
and his music is typical - archetypical - of the era. He was
widely held to be the 'Vivaldi of the oboe' - he was soloist
in Handel's own orchestra - and his facility with wind instruments
is self-evident in most of these pieces, in which he makes significant
demands of the soloist.
The recorder/flute works themselves are a mixture of the slow-fast-slow-fast
and fast-slow-fast four- and three-movements standards of the
late Baroque/early Galant era, with the titles comparatively
interchangeable. Halfway through their programme, somewhat curiously,
Bagliano and all but one of the Collegium Pro Musica take a
five-minute break for a short but attractive Harpsichord Sonata
by Giovanni Battista, his only contribution to the disc. And
then, sandwiched between the final two recorder works by Giuseppe
there is a windless Cello Sonata attributed to the same. This
is the only slow-fast-fast work, and quite possibly the best
on the disc - slightly ironic, given that the CD is entitled
"Recorder Concerto and Sonatas".
The Collegium Pro Musica has a fine, warm, authentic sound,
with their period instruments and historically informed mannerisms.
Bagliano plays well too, although Sammartini's music often stretches
the soloist's lungs to their limits, and in one or two places
Bagliano does sound as if he is on the verge of running out
of air, only to miraculously recover for yet another extended
virtuosic run. Whether or not the blending of soloist and ensemble
is at its optimum under Bagliano's recorder-playing direction
is an arguable question.
The recording quality is excellent, although soprano recorder
and flute soloists usually benefit from being less closely miked
than the rest of the ensemble, and Bagliano might have shown
a little more restraint when taking deep breaths.
The booklet notes are signed © Stefano Bagliano, 2011, which
is a bit of a puzzle, because at least a third of the text is
identical - almost verbatim - to the New Grove entry on Sammartini,
and that is authored by brothers' expert Bathia Churgin. There
is perhaps too much data on Bagliano compared with the Collegium
or even the works of Sammartini's performed here. The back inlay
has the only track-listing. Thus there is no indication of what
the "First recording" stated here refers to - certainly
Giuseppe's Concerto in F has been recorded a few times before.
Nor is it entirely clear who is playing what where. The Collegium's
members are all listed beneath the track details, but not helpfully
attached to any music they play a prominent part in. For example,
there is a subsidiary role for theorbo in the Sonata in F -
Diego Cantalupi is listed as 'theorbo', but not typographically
linked to that Sonata. These are all untidy odds and ends that
could and should have been fixed prior to publication.
Yet these are minor depreciations. This is a bountifully filled
disc of splendid music in first-rate performances, and an admirable
and overdue addition to the discography of Giuseppe Sammartini,
who deserves much more public recognition for his memorable
melodies, imaginative harmonies and counterpoint skills.
As a bonus for those who think it is high time musicians jettisoned
the formal dress of earlier decades - or centuries, in some
cases! - the booklet includes a colour photo of Collegium Pro
Musica posing with instruments, in which they look so casual
that the booklet should carry a health warning for members of
the Vienna Philharmonic.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk