Works by the Sammartini brothers
Ensemble 415 make a sparkling debut in these pages with a selection of baroque and pre-classical works by the Sammartinis on period instruments. Giuseppe Sammartini, the elder brother and virtuoso oboist, contributes a recorder concerto and two concerti grossi sandwiched between two sinfonie and a quintet for strings by the more progressive Giovanni Battista. The differences in style—one emanating from London and bearing the stamp of the conservative English taste, the other from Milan and one of the instigators of an important new genre—are unmistakable. Giuseppe's restless E minor ''Spiritoso'' from the concerto grosso, the G minor French overture and graceful minuets belong to a different musical world from that of GB's brash sinfonie.
Under the capable and lively direction of Chiara Banchini, Ensemble 415 present these works—most for the first time on disc—at their best: lightly textured with brisk tempos, articulated with unusual precision (which the resonant church acoustic only slightly blunts) and sympathetically read; for though the quality of the music varies—the Sinfonia in G is especially appealing, that in D major embarrassingly thin with its empty Vivaldian arpeggios—the performance never falters. The ensemble proves itself particularly flexible and sensitive to the contrasting demands of the mosaic structure of GB's sinfonie. Giuseppe's recorder concerto, rescued from a manuscript in Sweden, is nicely played by Conrad Steinmann (the Allegro well despatched, the lyric style of the Siciliano nicely caught and the Allegro assai duly perky). Banchini's solo in the Largo of GB's late quintet is most affecting; she shows herself to be equally at home on the platform and in the fron desk. One looks forward to hearing more from her and her group.'