G.B. & G. Sammartini Sonatas
A few years ago French Harmonia Mundi issued an attractive disc of concertos sinfonias and a quintet by the Sammartini Bros (4/87). Now their German namesake have released a recording of smaller instrumental pieces by the same composers. Giuseppe, the elder of the two brothers, was a celebrated oboist who came to London in the 1720s and who played in many of Handel's opera productions. He is represented here by two recorder sonatas, two flute sonatas and an oboe sonata. The Oboe Sonata (Op. 13 No. 4) is a beautifully written piece and a rewarding one to play. Following a wistful siciliano comes a jaunty allegro with lively passagework, a brief, melancholy adagio with a surprising leap of a ninth, and a graceful minuet. Hans-Peter Westermann gives an appealing and technically assured performance, with every ornament comfortably in place and with a feeling for expressive content.
The two treble recorder sonatas are allotted to Michael Schneider who brings a pleasing shape to the music, and the two flute pieces to Karl Kaiser. These are all attractive works and by no means always predictable—the G major Recorder Sonata for instance, has some startling chromaticisms in its second movement—but only the oboe sonata and the second of the flute sonatas perhaps, approach the level of the finest solo sonatas of the period. Giovanni Battista Sammartini's contribution consists of two keyboard sonatas, one for organ, the other for harpsichord fluently played by Sabine Bauer and a Sonata in B flat for cello and continuo (Op. 4 No. 2). The younger brother was the more forward-looking of the two in matters of style and his music reflects the changes in musical idiom taking place on the continent in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. New and old, so to speak are dearly differentiated in the juxtaposition of the entirely 'baroque' oboe sonata of Giuseppe, on the one hand, and the 'galant' cello sonata of Giovanni Battista, on the other. These are the strongest pieces in a programme which contains little that is either routine or predictable. Rainer Zipperling gives a lively, detailed performance of his sonata, supported by a second cello continuo with harpsichord.
In short, this is an entertaining recital, thoughtfully constructed and imaginatively performed. Fine recorded sound.'