These works are by Giuseppe Baldassare Sammartini, the lesser-known older brother of Italian symphonist Giovanni Battista Sammartini. Giuseppe was active for much of his career in England, where he gained fame as an oboe virtuoso. The album cover should make clear which Sammartini is meant, for the older brother's music doesn't have quite the compact brilliance that influenced Mozart in the younger brother's music. Giuseppe, however, apparently played the flute and recorder well enough to transfer his affinity for the oboe to those instruments compositionally: this album contains virtuoso compositions for flute and recorder in a variety of styles current in the middle of the eighteenth century. The inclusion of both concertos and trio sonatas is a plus, for it gives the listener a feeling for the differing kinds of display called forth by the two genres. The virtuosity extends in several cases to slow movements as well, as in the heavily ornamented slow movement of the Trio sonata for two flutes, Op. 1/6 (track 19). Some of the ornamentation is provided by the performers, Sophie Larivière and Matthias Maute, who are fully equal to the technical challenges of the music; their cleanly intoned recorder playing is a special treat. Distracting to the overall enterprise, however, is the inclusion of a piece "in the spirit of the eighteenth century" by Maute himself; its harmonic procedures, with a hint of neo-Classicism, produce a piece that doesn't sound much like Sammartini's music. There's a place for this kind of experimentation, but the middle of a specialized disc devoted to a very unfamiliar composer isn't it. The rather spacious church acoustic also detracts from the ingratiating London-bourgeois atmosphere of Sammartini's music. Despite these complaints, this is a pleasant disc with very snappy playing that any listener in the mood for light music may enjoy.
Sammartini: Sonate e Concerti per flauti Review
by James Manheim