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Baldassare GALUPPI (1706 - 1785): "Complete Concertos for Strings"

Ensemble StilModerno

rec: June 10 - 14, 2014, Milan, Sant'Antonio
Brilliant Classics - 94648 ( 2015) (60'24")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Concerto primo in G; Concerto secondo in D; Concerto terzo in c minor; Concerto quarto in E flat; Concerto quinto in B flat; Concerto sesto in A; Concerto que serve d'introdutione in g minor

Giorgio Tosi, Valentina Ghirardani, violin; Eleonora Regorda, viola; Marlise Goidanich, cello; Carlo Centemeri, organ

In the 1750s and 1760s the Roman-Catholic court in Dresden was looking for new religious music from Italy. Some music was ordered from the best-known copying shop in Venice, which was owned by a priest, Don Giuseppe Baldan. He sent several pieces by Vivaldi but attributed them to Baldassare Galuppi. This is a token of the huge popularity of Galuppi whose reputation as the most fashionable Italian composer of his time had completely overshadowed Vivaldi's.

He was born in Burano which explains his nickname Buranello. His father was a violinist, who worked as a barber. Galuppi's main teacher was Antonio Lotti. The English journalist Charles Burney visited Galuppi in 1770 and wrote: "Signor Galuppi was a scholar of the famous Lotti, and very early taken notice of as a good harpsichord player, and a genius in composition. (...) He certainly merits all that can be done for him, being one of the few remaining original geniusses of the best school perhaps that Italy ever saw. His compositions are always ingenious and natural, and I may add, that he is a good contrapuntist, and a friend to poetry." Burney also quoted Galuppi as saying that good music consists of "beauty, clearness and good modulation".

The concerti a quattro which are the subject of the present disc were never published. They have survived as a set of manuscript parts in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. Copies of some of the concertos have been found in Rome, Venice and in Sweden, which attests to the fame of Galuppi. It is not known when these concertos were written but musicologists believe they date from around 1740. It is unclear whether they were conceived as a set or were put together by the copyist.

The concertos confirm Burney's assessment that Galuppi was a good contrapuntist. They are a mixture of old and new elements. Galuppi makes more use of counterpoint than was common in his time. There is an unmistakable influence of Corelli's trio sonatas, for instance in the fugal second movements. Especially in the closing movements the galant idiom, which was dominant in the mid-18th century, manifests itself. The two violins generally call the tune; the viola comes to the fore now and then, but mostly plays a subordinate role. It is notable that there are some indications of a solo passage for the cello, departing from the basso continuo. This and the fact that there are some figures in the bass part seem to contradict the suggestion that these concertos are early specimens of the string quartet which was to become one of the most important genres of chamber music in the late 18th and in the 19th century. However, they certainly point in the direction of the string quartet. Even early divertimenti by Mozart (KV 136 to 138), scored for two violins, viola and bass, are sometimes performed with a keyboard, for instance by Concerto de' Cavalieri.

In the track-list the concertos are numbered. This is a little confusing as another recording (by Ensemble Il Falcone; Dynamic, 2006) gives different numbers. Considering that these recordings are based on the same source this is hard to explain. The previous recording is good, but I just prefer the Ensemble StilModerno. The ensemble is transparent; the players use some fine dynamic shading, without exaggeration. The slow movements which open every concerto are quite expressive; the grave e adagio from the Concerto in g minor is one of the most beautiful movements of this set.

These concertos are not 'great' music nor are they indispensable but they are certainly enjoyable. One hour of musical entertainment at budget price, that's not bad.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

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