WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Sammartini: Concertos & Overtures / Les Muffatti

Sammartini / Van Heyghen / Muffatti
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Ramee   Catalog #: 1008   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Giuseppe Sammartini
Performer:  Benoît Laurent
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $18.99
CD:  $14.99
In Stock
MP3: $9.99
What's this?




Notes and Editorial Reviews



G. SAMMARTINI Concerti grossi: in A, op. 2/1; in a, op. 5/4; in e op. 11/5. Oboe Concertos: in C, R 166/30; in g, op. 8/5. Overtures: in F, op. 10/7; in D, op. 10/4; in G for 2 Horns, op. 7/6 Read more class="BULLET12"> • Peter van Heyghen, cond; Benoît Laurent (ob); Les Muffatti (period instruments) RAMÉE 1008 (79:10)


One or two issues back, I reviewed a Dynamic Delizie Musicali CD featuring I Musici Ambrosiani, a modern-instrument chamber ensemble, in a program of flute and oboe concertos by the elder Sammartini, Giuseppe (1695–1750). There is only one duplication between that disc and this new one, the Oboe Concerto in C. This new Ramée release features Les Muffatti, an ensemble originally consisting of 12 musicians formed in Brussels in 1996. It did not make its official public debut, however, until 2004.


The name Les Muffatti baffled me. I was pretty sure it didn’t refer to muffs, muffins, the Muppets, or the Mafia, but you may be as surprised as I was at its origin. It seems that the group decided to name itself “The Muffats” after the French Baroque composer of Scottish descent Georg Muffat (1653–1704), “a key historical figure,” we’re told, “in the creation of the string orchestra, and one of the first authors to have clearly mapped out the main differences between French and Italian musical styles around 1700.”


The ensemble attracted the attention of Peter van Heyghen, a recognized specialist in early music, and with his engagement as conductor Les Muffatti began its professional career, taking on a few more members to augment the original dozen. The group’s strings are 5:3:2: 3, supplemented by a double bass, two horns, archlute, and harpsichord, for a total of 18, which is slightly larger than some other period-instrument ensembles I’ve encountered lately, to which I say, “Good; bigger is better. Begone, ye one-to-a-parters! You’re over.”


It seems that Giuseppe Sammartini has enjoyed a reversal of fortune of late. For the longest time, he was eclipsed by his younger brother, Giovanni Battista (1700–75). Giuseppe Sammartini was prized more as a virtuoso oboist than as a composer. I note, however, that as of this writing, ArkivMusic’s entries for Giuseppe now outnumber those for sibling Giovanni Battista, and not without justification, for Giuseppe is believed to have written around 450 works, a significant proportion of them symphonies and concertos. Sammartini is also one of many Italian composers of the era who further enflamed an elitist, insular minority among the Brits that decried the invasion and overrunning of their country and culture by their continental neighbors. Like others before and after him, Sammartini caught the scent of money from across the Channel and betook himself to England, where he didn’t do badly at all, eventually being appointed music teacher to the family of Frederic, Prince of Wales, a position he held until his death.


By the time Sammartini came to write his op. 2 and op. 5 sets of concerti grossi in 1738 and 1747, respectively—three of which are heard here—he was well established in London and was rubbing elbows with Bononcini, Porpora, and Handel, three more imports to British soil the English loved to hate. Fair or not, comparison to Handel’s 12 concerti grossi, op. 6, published in 1739, is unavoidable. In fact, the first impression one has listening to Sammartini’s concertos is how much closer to Handel’s “English” style they are than to the Italian sound cultivated by Corelli, Vivaldi, and Albinoni. Listen, for example, to the third movement (Allegro moderato) of the A-Minor Concerto. It has that same character of English pomp and circumstance one hears in many movements of Handel’s concertos and which Handel used so effectively to portray the dignity of royal characters in his operas. Sammartini’s music may not be of quite the quality of Handel’s, but it’s very good and very addictive if you’re particularly fond of Handel’s style in his concerti grossi and organ concertos.


When it comes to the oboe concertos, I’m of mixed feelings. On evidence of the two examples on the disc, there’s little question as to why Sammartini was regarded as the premier oboist of his day. The concertos are virtuoso vehicles written to showcase his talents as a player, and in that regard they’re very effective. But their musical content is slim, consisting in the main of um-chug-chug accompaniments in the strings over which the oboe performs its somersaults and acrobatics. There’s nothing to match the Italian suppleness and sheer spun melodic gold of Albinoni’s op. 9 oboe concertos, especially No. 2 of the set.


Although Sammartini made two or three stabs at composing operas, the three overtures presented here are not overtures to them or indeed to any stage works. They are strictly orchestral music that, in style, is virtually indistinguishable from his concerti grossi. Why they’re called overtures and not symphonies or sinfonias, I don’t know, but conductor Peter van Heyghen, who also authored the album’s notes, attributes at least the op. 7 overtures with horns to the “unscrupulous” publisher John Walsh, who compiled these works after the composer’s death into a “fantasy” collection that Sammartini could not possibly have been responsible for. Heyghen points out, for example, that the oboe parts are replete with unplayable notes.


Not all of this music, to be honest, is of uniform excellence, but that cannot be said of Les Muffatti, which maintains the absolute highest standards of period-instrument practice. Heyghen and his ensemble exercise moderation, good judgment, and sanity in all things. This is not a conductor or a period-instrument band that goes over the top or around the bend when it comes to tempos, dynamics, phrasing, or articulation. The highest compliment I can pay them is to say their readings of these scores are infused with great musical wisdom and respect. I cannot promise you music that will rock your world, but Sammartini deserves a hearing, and he has no better voice I know of than Heyghen and Les Muffatti to deliver his message.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Concerti grossi (6), Op. 2, No. 1 in A major, Op. 2/1 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1728 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
2. Concerto grosso for strings & basso continuo in A minor, Op. 5/4 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 9 Minutes 34 Secs. 
3. Concerto for oboe and strings, No. 12 in C major by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 16 Minutes 25 Secs. 
4. Overture for strings & basso continuo in F major, Op. 10/7 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 7 Minutes 3 Secs. 
5. Concerto for oboe, strings & basso continuo in G minor, Op. 8/5 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Performer:  Benoît Laurent (Oboe)
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 6 Minutes 10 Secs. 
6. Overture for strings & basso continuo in D major, Op. 10/4 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 8 Minutes 54 Secs. 
7. Concerto grosso for strings & basso continuo in E minor, Op. 11/5 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 7 Minutes 23 Secs. 
8. Overture for 2 horns, strings & basso continuo in G major, Op. 7/6 by Giuseppe Sammartini
Conductor:  Peter Van Heyghen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Muffatti
Period: Baroque 
Length: 11 Minutes 29 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 2, No. 1: I. Spiritoso
Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 2, No. 1: II. Allegro assai
Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 2, No. 1: III. Andante
Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 2, No. 1: IV. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 5, No. 4: I. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 5, No. 4: II. Andantino e cantabile
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 5, No. 4: III. Allegro moderato
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 5, No. 4: IV. Minuet gratioso
Oboe Concerto in C major [S-Skma Xe-R 166:30]: I. Allegro
Oboe Concerto in C major [S-Skma Xe-R 166:30]: II. Andante
Oboe Concerto in C major [S-Skma Xe-R 166:30]: III. Allegro assai
Overture in F major, Op. 10, No. 7: I. Allegro
Overture in F major, Op. 10, No. 7: II. Andante sostenuto
Overture in F major, Op. 10, No. 7: III. Minuet - 2do minuet
Oboe Concerto in G minor, Op. 8, No. 5: I. Andante sostenuto
Oboe Concerto in G minor, Op. 8, No. 5: II. Allegro assai - Andante adagio - Allegro - Adagiio ad libitum
Oboe Concerto in G minor, Op. 8, No. 5: III. Andante sostenuto
Overture in D major, Op. 10, No. 4: I. Spiritoso
Overture in D major, Op. 10, No. 4: II. Allegro
Overture in D major, Op. 10, No. 4: III. Andante
Overture in D major, Op. 10, No. 4: IV. Allegro grazioso
Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 11, No. 5: I. Andante sostenuto
Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 11, No. 5: II. Tempo siusto - Sostenuto
Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 11, No. 5: III. Andante
Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 11, No. 5: IV. Allegro
Overture in G major, Op. 7, No. 6: I. Allegro assai
Overture in G major, Op. 7, No. 6: II. Andante
Overture in G major, Op. 7, No. 6: III. Minuetto allegro

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Captivating August 15, 2012 By John W. (Woori Yallock Vic., Australia) See All My Reviews "Sammartini died six years before Mozart was born, but when you hear ths disc, it is hard to believe.
These are among his least known works, and are delightful in their melodies and Orchestration. The recorded sound is first class. A most impressive CD."
Report Abuse
 If I could take only one CD June 14, 2012 By Anthony G. (valley stream, NY) See All My Reviews "If I could take only one CD with me to my dream island, this would be it. Sammartini's music sparkles, scintillates, and stimulates ear and mind. " Report Abuse
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook