Giuseppe Sammartini


Born: January 6, 1695 in Milan, Italy Died: November 23, 1750 in London, England
A younger contemporary of J.S. Bach, Giuseppe Sammartini is generally recognized as one of the more significant composers of concertos and sonatas during his time. An oboist, it is likely that he played the flute and recorder as well: indeed, among his vast instrumental output, there are 24 sonatas for flute (or violin) and bass, 30 trios involving flute, and his best-known composition is the Concerto in F for recorder. Oddly, though he wrote chamber works and a concerto for oboe, he produced substantially less for his chosen instrument.

Born in Milan, Sammartini was the son of French oboist Alexis Saint-Martin and older brother of the better-known composer (and also oboist) Giovanni Battista Sammartini. Young Giuseppe's first instruction likely came from his father, and by 1711 the two brothers were performing together in an orchestra. Giuseppe's first surviving compositions date to the mid-1710s and include the aforementioned Oboe Concerto in F major, which was published in Amsterdam around 1717.

Around the time of that publication, Giuseppe and Giovanni became members of a Milan orchestra and by 1720 they had joined that city's Regio Ducal Theater orchestra. In 1729, Giuseppe departed Italy for Brussels, where he remained briefly before traveling to London, the city he would settle in for the remainder of his career.

He was already recognized in England as a promising composer, owing to the publication there of his 12 Trio Sonatas in 1727. But it was his musicianship on the oboe that made him a celebrity in the English capital. In the 1730s Sammartini played in Handel's orchestra and performed in many productions of Handel's operas, including that of Arminio, which features difficult obbligato writing for the oboe in the Act II aria, "Quella fiamme."

In 1736 Sammartini was appointed music teacher in the household of Prince Frederick of Wales. His duties included instructing the Prince's wife Augusta and her children in music, and undoubtedly involved many private chamber music performances before the Prince and his retinue. Sammartini held this post until his death. This final decade-and-a-half was apparently a very happy time for him: many of his works date to this period, some carrying dedications to the Prince (12 Sonatas, Op. 1; 1736) and to Augusta (12 Trios, Op. 3; 1743). Sammartini died at the household of the Prince during the week of November 17, 1750.

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