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Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (1697 - 1763): "Four Harpsichord Concertos - Violin Concerto"

Federico Guglielmo, violin; Roberto Loreggian, harpsichord
L'Arte dell'Arco
Dir: Federico Guglielmo

rec: March 21 - 23, 2017, Carceri (Pd), Abbazia di S. Maria
CPO - 555 219-2 (© 2020) (64'25")
Liner-notes: E/D/IT
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for keyboard, strings and bc in C (I 48); Concerto for keyboard, strings and bc in F (I 52); Concerto for keyboard, strings and bc in G (I 54); Concerto for keyboard, strings and bc in A (I 57); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (I 18)a

Federico Guglielmo, Alessia Pazzagliaa, Elisa Imbalzano, violin; Mario Paladin, viola; Francesco Galligioni, cello

It is quite remarkable that a composer who received hardly any attention about twenty years ago, has become the subject of a remarkable number of recordings during the last fifteen years or so. Two instruments figure prominently in his oeuvre: the oboe and the cello. The present disc focuses on his contributions to the music for keyboard, and also includes his only violin concerto.

Platti was born in Padua or its neighbourhood; the year of his birth is not fully established, but there are strong indications that it was 1697. From 1722 until his death he worked in Germany, mostly at the court of the the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg and Würzburg, first Lothar Franz (who died in 1724) and then, from 1729 onwards, Johann Philipp Franz. Between 1724 and 1729 he mainly worked for Lothar Franz's brother Rudolf Franz Erwein in Wiesentheid. The latter was an avid player of the cello and collected large amounts of music for his instrument. Platti also wrote much music for him, which explains the prominent place of the cello in his oeuvre. The oboe was his own instrument; his employer called him an "incomparable oboist". That was only one of the instruments he was able to play: it seems likely that he also mastered the violin, the cello and the keyboard. Moreover, he acted as a tenor, and as a composer he contributed to nearly every genre in vogue in his time.

A few years ago Stefano Molardi recorded the complete keyboard sonatas by Platti, eighteen in total, twelve of which were printed. Platti also composed quite a number of keyboard concertos. The existence of fifteen concertos is documented; the six which were published have apparently not been preserved, and one of the concertos in manuscript is also lost. What is left is a corpus of nine concertos for keyboard and strings. In 2013 Arcana released a disc with three of them, performed by Luca Guglielmi. Fortunately only one of them is also included here. However, the present recording is not really a duplication, as Roberto Loreggian plays the concertos at the harpsichord, whereas Guglielmi opted for the fortepiano.

This leads us to the question which instrument Platti may have had in mind. The indication per Cembalo is not decisive, as this was the most common instrument at the time Platti composed and/or published his concertos, roughly between 1730 and 1750. In his liner-notes to the Arcana recording, Alberto Iesué, who published a catalogue of Platti's oeuvre (the I in the tracklist refers to this catalogue), states: "In Siena (...) from 1717 until her death in 1731, Violante Beatrice di Baviera, widow of Grand Prince Ferdinand, was 'Governor of the City and the State' (...). Violante was a cultured, intelligent and well-read woman who also played the harpsichord and the flute; it was thanks to her, who had known Cristofori in Florence and probably possessed one of his instruments, that Platti was able to familiarise himself with the increasingly popular newcomer". A letter by a contemporary includes a passage which says that Platti "composed celebrated sonatas for the Cembalo a martelletti with which he became acquainted in Siena (...)". Moreover, Platti's keyboard works never exceed the range of four octaves (C-c''') which is the range of all of Cristofori's extant instruments. Iesué suggests that Gottfried Silbermann, the first German to build fortepianos, may have become acquainted with Cristofori's instruments through Platti. That said, there is no objection whatsoever to a performance on the harpsichord, as it took a while before the fortepiano had established itself in Germany.

The four concertos are different in the connection between the keyboard and the strings. In the Concerto in C, for instance, the strings play a relatively subordinate role, very much in the tradition of the Vivaldian 'ritornello concerto'; the harpsichord also plays the basso continuo. In the Concerto in A, on the other hand, the string body is an almost equal partner of the keyboard and gets involved in a true dialogue with it. The former concerto is a rather uncomplicated, sunny piece, whereas the Concerto in G includes some stubborn melodic moves. The solo parts are generally quite demanding, and may well be beyond the capabilities of the average amateur at the time. In keyboard music from the mid-18th century, the thematic material was largely given to the right hand, whereas the left hand's role was confined to that of an accompaniment. In these concertos, the left hand also now and then plays Alberti basses, but overall its role is much more important in that the thematic material is often shared between the two hands. That material is often notable and rather unconventional. In these concertos Platti shows his independence; he certainly was a voice of his own in the chorus of his time.

The Concerto in A is his only violin concerto. It has been preserved in the Saxony State Library in Dresden, and one wonders whether Johann Georg Pisendel, concertmaster of the court chapel there, may have known this concerto or even played it himself. It would certainly have been to his liking, as it is written in the Italian style that Pisendel so much appreciated, and is also technically demanding, as the solo part explores the highest positions of the violin. It is a very fine concerto and a most interesting and valuable addition to the repertoire.

The same goes for the keyboard concertos. There is more than the keyboard concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons, and one would wish these fine concertos to become part of the repertoire of keyboard players. The fact that they can be played on the fortepiano as well may make them even more attractive. The performances are everything one could wish for in a recording of music that is largely unknown. I can hardly imagine a better case for these pieces than what is on offer here. Roberto Loreggian, a former pupil of Ton Koopman, is a prolific performer, who has made many recordings, and who never disappoints in his interpretations, whether it regards the keyboard oeuvre of early Italian masters, such as Frescobaldi, or much later music as we have here. These are brilliant readings, in which he finds equal partners in the members of L'Arte dell'Arco, whose concertmaster Federico Guglielmo delivers an excellent performance of the violin concerto.

This disc is a further testimony of the qualities of a composer who still unjustly plays a marginal role in concert life.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

Relevant links:

Roberto Loreggian

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