musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Baldassare GALUPPI (1706 - 1785): "Complete Harpsichord Concertos"

Mario Folena, transverse flutea; Roberto Loreggian, harpsichordb
Ensemble ConSerto Musico

rec: June 10 - 11 & Nov 22, 2010, Baone, Villa Beatrice d'Este
Brilliant Classics - 94161 (2 CDs) (© 2011) (2.00'20")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Baldassare GALUPPI: Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in Cb [1]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in c minorb [1]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in E flatb [1]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in Fb [1]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in Fb [2]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in Gb [1]; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bc in Ab [1]; Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in Da; Concerto for transverse flute, harpsichord, strings and bc in Gab; Baldassare GALUPPI/Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809): Concerto for keyboard, strings and bc in D (H XVIII,2)b [3]

Sources: [1] ms Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale; [2] ms Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek; [3] ms Berlin, Staatsbibliothek

Federico Guglielmo, Glauco Bertagnin, violin; Massimo Piva, viola; Cristiano Contadin, violotto

After the death of Antonio Vivaldi Baldassare Galuppi was the most fashionable composer from Venice. Such was his reputation that some of Vivaldi's compositions were sold under his name in order to increase sales. His father was a barber who also played the violin in small orchestras, and was probably his first teacher. Galuppi wasn't devoid of self-confidence: at the age of 16 he composed his first music, a so-called favola pastorale, but according to a contemporary witness it was a fiasco. It didn't withhold him from continuing to compose, especially music for the theatre. His skills certainly improved thanks to his studies with Antonio Lotti. At the age of 20 he was already a keyboard player of repute, and not only played in various opera orchestras but also composed substitute arias for operas by other composers. His first successes in the field of opera and oratorio date from the late 1730s.

His career started to blossom after the death of Vivaldi in 1741 and in particular when he started to adapt Neapolitan comic operas to the taste of the Venetian audiences. He also contributed some comic operas of his own. Evidence of his growing status was his appointment as vicemaestro of the cappella ducale of San Marco in 1748. This and his activities in various ospedali resulted in a large output of sacred music, although his main interest was opera. This led to the invitation to travel to St Petersburg, where he arrived in 1765. He produced a number of operas which found great approval, and he also had a strong influence on the style of composition in sacred music in Russia. He returned to Venice in 1768, and after that concentrated on sacred music.

As a performer Galuppi was active as a player of the keyboard, and as one may expect he also composed music for his own instrument. No pieces from his pen were published before 1756, and a large part of his keyboard music is still uncatalogued. In his sonatas the polyphony of the 17th century has gone, and instead the focus is on the treble and the mostly simpler bass part. That is not different in his keyboard concertos none of which were published. The first disc of this set includes the six concertos which are preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. These are all in three movements, mostly in major keys and modest in size. The keyboard is accompanied by four strings: two violins, viola and bass. The latter part is given here to the violotto, "an Italian instrument with 5 strings used in the first half of the 18th century. The violotto belonged to the viola da gamba family but was larger, with a rounder, deeper sound that was capable of sustaining the bass line on its own and adding a lightness of touch that contrasted with the usual combination of cello and double bass", Roberto Loreggian writes in the 'artist's notes' in the booklet. All the music on these discs is performed with one instrument per part.

Some notable movements are the first of the Concerto in C which opens, despite the tempo indication allegro, with a short slow section. The strings play some chords piano, and then the harpsichord immediately enters. In the Concerto in G the slow movement, andantino con moto, is played with muted strings, a common phenomenon in music of the mid-18th century. Another feature of this time is the use of drum basses; here they are used in the first movement of the Concerto in c minor.

The second disc offers another concerto by Galuppi, the Concerto in F which has been preserved in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden. Most remarkable is the inclusion of the Concerto in D which is usually performed as a composition by Haydn. The reason for its recording in this set is the fact that this piece appears in a manuscript in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek with the attribution del Signore Galuppi. This manuscript has also been used for this recording. Whether this version contains any differences with the common version is not revealed in the booklet.

In addition we hear two other concertos. The Concerto in G for transverse flute, harpsichord, strings and bc is preserved incomplete. The keyboard part is missing, and for this recording Mario Folena has restored this part. The result is a nice piece which is an interesting addition to the repertoire. Foleno plays the flute part, like in the Concerto in D for transverse flute, strings and bc whose key is not given in the tracklist; a search at the internet delivered the necessary information.

Roberto Loreggian and his ensemble deliver good and enthusiastic performances. The fast movements are lively, the slow movements don't lack feeling. Sometimes they go a bit too far, especially at the end of the first movement of the Concerto in c minor which is rather rough. Loreggian adds cadenzas to all movements. "I have taken the liberty of borrowing some harpsichord cadenzas composed by Muzio Clementi 'in the style of various composers' (Musical Characteristics Op. 19)", Loreggian writes in his notes. Unfortunately he doesn't tell which are by Clementi and which are of his own making. Some cadenzas seem to me a bit too long. Mario Folena gives nice accounts of his solo parts.

All in all a nice and worthwhile set which will certainly appeal to lovers of 18th-century keyboard music.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Roberto Loreggian

CD Reviews