Giuseppe Sammartini: 6 concertos in 7 parts, op. 2

I Musici
Dynamic CDS7777

The HIP world owes a lot to I Musici. I am fairly certain I had at least one boxed set of LPs of them playing complete Vivaldi concerto editions and it was partly through them that I discovered Baroque music. Unfortunately, around that time I also bought an LP of the new kids on the block, The Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood, and my ears were forever opened to the possibilities of period instrument performance (squawky oboes and all!). Yet, if the arrival of this new disk raised an eyebrow, that is more a reflection on my pre-conceptions that anything else. Sammartini’s concertos (four in three movements, two with only three) contain such a rich variety of material that the attention never wavers and while their bowing arms remain steadfastly in the 21st century, at least I Musici have engaged with earlier left-hand techniques – open strings resound brightly, trills start on the upper note and are shaped rather than automated, ornaments are added with imagination and relentless vibrato is banished. And all for the good, I would say. Even on modern instruments, it is perfectly possible to produce fine performances of this unexpectedly gripping music.

Brian Clark