musica Dei donum
Giovanni Battista Martini: Sinfonie a 4 da Camera
Dir.: Ottaviano Tenerani
rec: Oct 3 - 6, 2000, Saturnana, Pieve di S. Giovanni
Tactus - TC 701305 (78'38")
4 Sinfonia's in D (1749, 1750, 1751, 1751), 5 Sinfonia's in F (1736, 1751, 1753,
1760, 1764), Sinfonia in B flat
Marica Testi (recorder, flute), Marta Caneva (recorder), Gabriele Alessandro
Rodrigi (flute), Martino Noferi (recorder, oboe), Paolo Faggi, Francesco Meucci
(corno da caccia), Fabio Cafaro, Diletta Meazza, Laura Scipioni (violin),
Fulvio Milone (viola), Raffaele Sorrentino (cello), Carlo Pelliccione (double
bass), Ottaviano Tenerani (harpsichord)
Every music lover knows Giovanni Battista Martini, at least under his 'nickname'
Padre Martini. He appears in every music encyclopedia and in every music history.
On the site of the ensemble Il Rossignolo he is portrayed like this: "A typical
eighteenth-century man of culture, Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706 - 1784)
was a musical theoretician, teacher, composer, scholar of phisical and
mathematical sciences, an encyclopedic mind in the noblest and most complete
sense of the word. He almost never traveled away from Bologna, the city of his
birth and death. Martini was a tireless collector of manuscripts and printed
works, of documents and sources of music history. the library of the convent of
San Francesco (now transferred to the conservatory), with its 17,000 volumes,
stands as an enduring monument to his science and his knowledge."
The question is, though, whether we really know Padre Martini. The fact that he
is primarily considered a 'theorist' hasn't done his reputation any good. Often
he is considered dull, old-fashioned and the staunch defender of polyphony. If
you think to know him, listen to this recording, and think again.
There is hardly any polyphony on this CD. Some Sinfonia's are firmly rooted in
the baroque style, but others are very much up to date with the contemporary
The fast movements are mostly very joyful, the movements in between quite
expressive - almost never 'slow', as the mostly used characterisation 'andante'
indicates. The instrumentation varies: some Sinfonia's are for strings and bc
only, others include parts for recorders, flutes, oboes and corni da caccia.
But even within the Sinfonia's there are contrasts in instrumentation: sometimes
the wind instruments only appear in the fast movements, whereas the middle section
is for strings, or even just for violin and cello. These works show that
Martini wasn't merely a famous teacher of composers who have got a much bigger
reputation than he himself ever had - the likes of Johann Christian Bach, Grétry and
Jommelli - but was a good composer in his own right. These Sinfonia's contain
many delightful melodies and vivid rhythms. In the earliest piece on this recording,
the Sinfonia in F from 1736, the corni da caccia play an important role,
like in the first Brandenburg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The ensemble Il Rossignolo has made a number of CDs with works by Martini. The
interpretation here is very enthusiastic, lively and energetic. These players really
believe in the music they perform. It is a pity that the acoustics have a
negative effect on the recording. The reverberation is such that some details
are lost, and when the tempi are fast, everything starts to get a little messy
sometimes. Now and then the intonation is less than perfect. But these factors
shouldn't put off anyone interested in good and little known music. It would be
a shame to ignore this recording, which will change our view on good old Padre
Johan van Veen (© 2002)