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Friday, October 01, 2004
  Symphony in F Major, No. 32, Presto (first movement)
Giovanni Battista Sammartini (ca. 1700-1775)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 7 Tracks 24-25

The pseudo-science of Rameau's bestseller gains verisimilitude in the work of the elegant Mr. Sammartini. Never have theory and practice been so happily joined. "I like soup. I like soup," declare the strings. The simple melodic construction and unsurprising harmonic rhythm of the classical style makes it easy for musical vandals to attach nonsense text. The Second Viennese School, emancipators of dissonance, avoided this. However, these two historic revolutions, the first and second Viennese schools, are alike in their reaction against music that relied too heavily on inspiration. As the matrix would offer an organized series of rows, the major scale would offer a series of triads prepared to realize the satisfying narrative formula known as sonata form.

Apparently, repeating a single pitch three times like the opening of this Presto was a popular icebreaker in Mr. Sammartini’s circles. In this piece, the “I like soup” declaration so clearly marks the beginning and end of each section that he could have afforded to be widely adventuresome. That he chose not to is significant to the listener's experience. We feel the opportunity pass. And we, like the first listeners to this piece, feel comforted by the show of restraint.

What I like about Sammartini’s tune are the ascensions in half-notes. They take the listener back three steps better to enjoy the speedy notes. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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