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"Mozart's Maestri - Johann Christian Bach & Giovanni Marco Rutini"

Concerto Madrigalesco
Dir: Luca Guglielmi

rec: Nov 19, 2010 (live), Mantua, Teatro Bibiena*; May 11 - 12, 2011, Corio (Piemonte), Chiesa di San Bernardino da Siena**
Accent - ACC24256 (© 2013) (21'30")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)*: Concerto for keyboard, 2 violins and bass in D (KV 107,1)ac; Concerto for keyboard, 2 violins and bass in G (KV 107,2)ac; Concerto for keyboard, 2 violins and bass in E flat (KV 107,3)ac; Giovanni Marco RUTINI (1723-1797)**: Sonata for keyboard in f minor, op. 5,5b [1]; Sonata for keyboard in D, op. 6,2a [1]; Sonata for keyboard in g minor, op. 6,5a [1]; Sonata for keyboard in E flat, op. 6,6b [1]

[1] Johann Ulrich Haffner, ed, Sonate per Cimbalo, 1758-65

Luca Guglielmi, harpsichorda, fortepianob; Massimo Spadano, Liana Mosca, violinc; Bruno Cocset, celloc; Xavier Puertas, violonec

There was a time when musicians looked down pityingly at music in the galant idiom. In their view that was music which goes in one ear and out the other and doesn't make a lasting impression. Today some musicians are willing to revise that view as the growing number of recordings shows. They are in good company: Mozart never showed disdain for the style of which Johann Christian Bach was one of the main representatives. His whole life he adored the youngest son of the Leipzig Thomaskantor. It was during his concert tour with his father Leopold and his sister Nannerl that he met him, when they visited London and stayed there from April 1764 until July 1765.

Johann Christian was one of the main actors at the music stage in London. In 1762 he had been appointed composer of the King's Theatre and shortly afterwards he became music master to Queen Charlotte. Together with his friend and colleague Carl Friedrich Abel he organized a concert series, the Bach-Abel concerts, where the latest works were performed and some of Europe's greatest virtuosos showed their skills. Bach also played at the homes of wealthy citizens, at first the harpsichord, later the fortepiano, probably mostly the then popular table piano. The popularity of Bach's music is reflected by the various editions of his compositions, which included pieces for keyboard solo and chamber music with a keyboard part.

In 1766 Bach published a set of six keyboard sonatas as his op. 5. At that time the Mozarts had already left London, but Wolfgang had seen them and probably also played them or heard Bach play them. Three of these sonatas inspired him to make arrangements for keyboard, two violins and bass, although with some help from his father. In his liner-notes John Irving states that most of the string parts are in Wolfgang's handwriting, whereas Leopold wrote out the keyboard parts and the figured bass. Mozart added tutti sections between phrases of Bach's original keyboard parts, which results in a succession of solo and tutti sections.

The choice of keyboard is a tricky issue in the performance of music from, roughly speaking, between 1760 and 1780. Most collections of keyboard sonatas were written for amateurs, and they still played the harpsichord or the clavichord. The edition of the op. 5 sonatas was the first in England to refer the fortepiano on the title page, but the harpsichord was mentioned first. Interestingly an edition of around 1775 mentions the two instruments in reverse order, probably reflecting the growing popularity of the fortepiano in the 1770s. Even so, it is often referred to the second sonata as an example of a piece with some 'symphonic' traits which seem to reflect Bach's attempts to make use of the possibilities of the fortepiano. However, Guglielmi seems right in choosing the harpsichord for his performance of these concertos. They date from 1772 and at that time Mozart did not own a fortepiano yet.

These concertos are available in various recordings. That is not the case with the keyboard sonatas by Giovanni Marco Rutini. I am probably not the only one who has never heard of him. He was born in Florence, and entered the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples in 1739; one of his teachers was Leonardo Leo. He worked in Prague for some time, and from 1757 to 1761 in St Petersburg; he then returned to Florence. Rutini left around 60 keyboard sonatas which circulated widely across Europe. Leopold Mozart had a high opinion of them and specifically recommended Nannerl to play them, in particular two sonatas also included here. Wolfgang knew them too, as Leopold asked him in 1771 in a letter to send him some "good sonatas by Rutini". The article on Rutini in New Grove notices his influence on the keyboard works of Haydn. The performances by Guglielmi support the assessment of Leopold Mozart. I certainly would like to hear more of them.

For these sonatas Guglielmi used a harpsichord and a fortepiano. As they date from the 1750s both choices seem feasible and they allow for a direct comparison between the two instruments in the same kind of repertoire. The sonatas fare well on both instruments. If a fortepiano is used the only suitable kind of instrument is the one Guglielmi plays here: the copy of a fortepiano by Gottfried Silbermann of 1749.

The performances are very good. The Mozart concertos are performed with flair and a good feeling for the theatrical aspects. Guglielmo adds quite some ornamentation which seems absolutely right. The three string players are of the same level. As these concertos were recorded live and the Rutini sonatas in the studio there are some differences in the acoustic which are audible but hardly problematic. The Rutini sonatas receive the best possible performance and should stir the interest of other keyboard players as well as anyone who purchases this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

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Luca Guglielmi

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