G. B. Sammartini | Presentation of the Complete Edition of the Cantatas for Lent

Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (1700/01-1775)                Le cantate profane 
Critical edition edited by Marina Vaccarini Gallarani              

LIM Editore, Lucca


Collection of Italian Music from the Eighteenth Century
in collaboration with Società Italiana di Musicologia.

Scientific Committee:
Alberto Basso, Mariateresa Dellaborra, Teresa Gialdroni, Friedrich Lippmann, Guido Salvetti, Agostino Ziino.

8 volumes


As part of its project for publications, Fondazione Arcadia plans to publish the cantatas for Lent (J-C 117 – J-C 124) composed by Giovanni Battista Sammartini for the Reale Imperiale Congregazione del Santissimo Entierro di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo (Royal Congregation of the Most Holy Burial of our Lord Jesus Christ), founded in Milan in 1633 at the Jesuit Domus Professa (the residence of Jesuit Fathers) in San Fedele ad active until 1773. Sammartini was Chapel Master of the congregation for forty-five years, from 1728 to 1773, and was appointed to compose five cantatas each year. These were performed during the five Fridays of Lent during the reunions of the members of the congregation in the crypt of the church of San Fedele.

The traces of this relevant quantity of music have been lost in large part; about fifty librettos remain which are kept in various Italian libraries, together with the manuscript scores of eight cantatas: the entire cycle of 1751 (Il pianto di S. Pietro, Il pianto delle pie Donne, Il pianto degli Angeli della pace, Pianto di Maddalena al sepolcro, Maria addolorata) and three cantatas all very likely belonging to the cycle of 1759 (Gerusalemme sconoscente ingrata, La perfidia giudaica nella SS. Passione di Gesù Cristo, L’addolorata Divina Madre e Desolatissima nella Soledad).

The eight cantatas have been integrally handed down to our day in two manuscript copies compiled by the Benedictine Father Sigismund Keller of Einsiedeln (1803-1882), director of the choir of that Abbey between 1870 and 1880.

The two volumes are now respectively kept at the Stiftsbibliothek of Einsiedeln (CH-E) and at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek of Munich (D-Mbs).

The Einsiedeln manuscript was compiled between 1873 and 1875; the one in Munich was probably copied from the first one a few years later, around 1880. The studies conducted by Bathia Churgin and by Newell Jenkins, the editors of the thematic catalog of vocal and symphonic works by Sammartini, have allowed us to reconstruct the historical vicissitudes of these manuscripts and of their (troubled – eventful) survival. It is probable that Father Keller undertook the copying of the cantatas with the aim to provide a study document for the members of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung. To reorder the cantatas in score form he presumably utilized parts, which are lost today, from the materials used for performances in Milan before their disappearance or destruction. These manuscript copies were in Einsiedeln thanks to the interest of the Archbishop Prince Marianus Müller (1724-1780) who requested them from Milan to be performed at the monastery. In this location, some of the arias were utilized also in separate contexts detached from the cantatas and their original text was substituted by Latin texts adapted to the melodic line (Nisi Dominus; Ecce panem angelorum; Confitebor ecc.)

Another source for the two cantatas J-C 120 and J-C 121 is kept at the Národni Muzeum of Pragaue; the manuscripts, dating around 1790, are in detached vocal and instrumental parts (without texts except for two arias with a different Latin text).

At last, another manuscript copy conserved at Einsiedeln includes the J-C 121, J-C- 122 ad J-C- 124 cantatas. The sources relative to the instrumental introductions of the cantatas are more numerous because in at least seven cases on eight they correspond to movements of symphonies (or overtures) by Sammartini (it is well known that this form of borrowing material or of passage from one genre to another was a common use in those times). The introductions of the J-C 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124 cantatas correspond to the first movement of seven of the twenty Overtures by Sammartini rebound in manuscript parts that are kept at the Borromeo Archive of Isola Bella, on Lago Maggiore. Other manuscript or printed sources of the introductions to the cantatas as movements of symphonies by Sammartini are found in various libraries (Parigi, Bibliothèque Nationale; Stoccolma, Statens Musikbibliotek ecc.).

Because of the operation of collation, the usefulness of these copies or prints from the Eighteenth century is unfortunately circumscribed only to the instrumental introductions. The complete cantatas came down to us only in copies collated many years after the death of Sammartini, and therefore not authorized by the author. Fortunately, the scientific motivations that lead Father Keller to assemble in a score the cantatas reduce to a minimum the possibility that he intervened on the original text by modifying it, but it is not excluded that there might have been some omissions, variants or mistakes, perhaps already handed down in the copies of the parts that he had at his disposal. While we await that the finding of new documents can complete some missing tassels and provide an answer to inevitable doubts, this edition makes use of all of the documents available at this time and therefore presents itself as a step along the long and diversified journey of transmission of these texts.

Marina Vaccarini Gallarani

Fondazione Arcadia