Sammartini (Il) Pianto degli Angeli della Pace

An air of elegance all round, but the ‘Passion opera’ needs more fire

Author: 
Nalen Anthoni

Sammartini (Il) Pianto degli Angeli della Pace

  • (Il) pianto degli angeli della pace
  • Symphony

The text for Il pianto degli angeli della pace (1751) speaks of blood and violence, but the Introduction only hints at the subject matter. Not that odd in the circumstances; this Lenten cantata was written to entertain wealthy opera-goers who entered a congregation because theatres were closed until Easter. So although the words are a reaction to, and commentary on the Passion, the form is operatic with an overture, three voices in ensemble, or singly in recitatives or da capo arias. The work is only one of eight that has survived out of more than 200 of its kind that Sammartini composed for performance at the church of San Fedele in Milan.

The vocal writing is more dissonant and dramatic than the instrumental introduction would suggest; but Daniele Ferrari doesn’t quite match the intensity that the soloists, soprano and tenor in particular, bring to the words. He tends to be an accompanist rather than participant; and his contribution, though always considerate, is somewhat lightweight. The recording is good though the timbres of oboes and horns aren’t distinctive enough.

Sammartini authority Bathia Churgin believes the composer to be ‘the finest symphonist before Haydn’ and this three-movement example (its middle movement is marked Allegrino, a north Italian term for Allegretto) dates from the late 1760s/early 1770s. The sound here is finer but, once again, Ferrari blends the oboes and horns into the string texture, blurring instrumental colour and blunting rhythmic definition. The conducting is deferentially elegant but far from trenchant.

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