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Baldassare GALUPPI (1706 - 1785): "Organ Sonatas"

Luca Scandali, organ

rec: Nov 18 - 19, 2015, Morrovalle (Macerata), San Bartolomeo Apostoloa; Dec 14 - 15, 2015, Civitanova Marche (Macerata), San Paolob
Brilliant Classics - 95140 (2 CDs) ( 2016) (2.19'50")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C (R.A. 1.1.08)a; Sonata in C (R.A. 1.1.14)b; Sonata in C (R.A. 1.1.16)a; Sonata in C (R.A. 1.1.28)a; Sonata in C (R.A. 1.11.18)b Sonata in c minorb; Sonata in D (R.A. 1.03.07)b; Sonata in D (R.A. 1.3.15)b; Sonata in d minor (R.A. 1.4.03)a; Sonata in d minora; Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.03)a; Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.11)b; Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.28)a; Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.33)b; Sonata in g minor (R.A. 1.12.01)b; Sonata in a minor (R.A. 1.15.02)b; Sonata in a minor (R.A. 1.15.03)b; Sonata in g minor (R.A. 1.12.05)a; Sonata in B flat (R.A. 1.16.06)a; Sonata in B flat (R.A. 1.16.07)b; Sonata in B flat (R.A. 1.16.10)a
(R.A.: Franco Rossi, Catalogo tematico delle composizioni di Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785), Padua, 2006)

There seems to be a revival of interest in the oeuvre of Baldassare Galuppi. In recent years various discs with his music have crossed my path. He was the most fashionable Italian composer after the death of Antonio Vivaldi and was especially famous for his works for the stage. It was this quality which brought him to various places across Europe, including London and St Petersburg. In Russia he worked from 1765 to 1768; on his way to St Petersburg he visited Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Hamburg and on his way back to Venice he met Johann Adolf Hasse in Vienna. These also ranked among the great names of the time.

The list of Galuppi's operas, serenatas and oratorios in New Grove is impressive. Only a small number of them are known and performed in our time. In comparison the size of his instrumental output seems rather limited. It includes some keyboard concertos and concertos for strings. The largest part of his instrumental oeuvre is for keyboard. Galuppi was educated as a keyboard player and was already active as organist in several churches at the age of 16. Throughout his life he held various posts as organist or as maestro di cappella.

During his life only two collections of six sonatas each were published, both in London. The op. 1 came in 1756 from the press, the op. 2 three years later. Some other sonatas or single movements were included in anthologies in the 1750s and 1760s. In 1909 Fausto Torrefranca made the first attempt to catalogue his keyboard works and since then many more pieces have been brought to light. The latest catalogue was put together by Franco Rossi and published in 2006; the R in the track-list refers to this catalogue. Whereas Torrefranca listed 51 sonatas, Rossi could identify no fewer than 175. The fact that Galuppi's sonatas are preserved in archives and libraries across Europe and even in the Americas attest to their popularity. However, often the movements are ordered differently from one source to the other, and sometimes movements appear in one source which are absent in another. Moreover, in some cases the music itself also shows differences. An example is the Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.03) which has two movements in this recording. Luca Guglielmi also included it in his recording for Accent but apparently uses a different version as he plays only the opening larghetto which is also considerably shorter than the version Luca Scandali plays. Franco Rossi, in his liner-notes to Andrea Chezzi's recording of the sonatas op. 1, concludes that "the publication of Galuppi's complete keyboard works cannot logically claim to be a critical edition".

The sonatas recorded by Luca Scandali are very different in texture. Some are in three movements, in the order fast - slow - fast (Sonata in C, R.A. 1.1.08) or slow - fast - fast (Sonata in D, R.A. 1.03.07), whereas the three movements of the Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.28) have no tempo indications at all. Other sonatas come in two movements (Sonata in d minor, R.A. 1.4.03) and several consist of just one movement: an andantino (Sonata in C, R.A. 1.11.18) or an allegro assai (Sonata in D, R.A. 1.3.15); some have no tempo indications.

However, they are all written in the then fashionable galant idiom. This means that the right hand has the bulk of the melodic and thematic material, and the left hand is largely confined to an accompanying role. Charles Burney met Galuppi on his travels and was full of praise, calling him a "good contrapuntist". Little of that quality comes to the fore in his keyboard works, though. There are some exceptions: the Sonata in D (R.A. 1.3.17) is rather old-fashioned piece. It is fugal, includes some daring harmonic progressions and towards the end an improvisational episode in the right hand over a pedal point. Also notable is the Sonata in g minor (R.A. 1.12.01) which is in two movements. The first has two sections. It opens with a largo which includes some dissonants; these come especially to the fore due to the unequal temperament of the organ. This is followed by a fugal allegro. The galant idiom does not exclude a fair amount of expression, particularly in the slower movements. A fine example is the larghetto which opens the Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.03) that I already mentioned. It has written-out varied reprises for both sections, and Michael Talbot, in his liner-notes to Guglielmi's recording, suggests that this may be due to the influence of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Another beautiful piece is the andante from the Sonata in G (R.A. 1.11.28). The fast movements are often energetic and have some operatic traits.

According to Talbot Galuppi's sonatas don't show any signs of being written for a specific keyboard instrument. From this one may conclude that it is just the interpreter's taste and what sounds best that is decisive. Marco Ruggeri, in his liner-notes to the present recording, justifies the use of an organ by referring to Galuppi's activities as a church organist throughout his career. The then common indications of the intended instruments being harpsichord or fortepiano do not exclude other options, such as the clavichord or - in this case - the organ. Luca Scandali doesn't play chamber organs but church organs. It is certainly possible that sonatas such as these may have been played during the liturgy. In the course of the 18th century liturgical organ music became increasingly 'secular' in character, a development which continued in the 19th century where some pieces were unashamedly operatic.

Scandali uses two organs from around 1800 which are stylistically not fundamentally different from the organs Galuppi may have known. It was only in the 19th century that organ building in Italy was to change. Scandali explores the possibilities of the two instruments to the full, using the various colours of the dispositions of the respective instruments to good effect. In the slower movements he manages to create a strong amount of intimacy, thanks to an appropriate choice of registers and subtle playing. The result is a compelling recording of sonatas which are clearly above the average of what was produced in the mid-18th century. The revival of interest in Galuppi's music is well deserved.

Johan van Veen ( 2016)

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