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Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (c1697 - 1763): "Sonatas & Trios"

Epoca Barocca

rec: Oct 1 - 4, 2005, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 777 340-2 (© 2008) (65'06")

Sonata for cello and bc in d minor; Sonata for oboe and bc in c minor; Sonata for oboe, bassoon and bc in c minor; Sonata for oboe, cello and bc in g minor; Sonata for violin, cello and bc in G; Sonata for violin, oboe and bc in D

Alessandro Piqué, oboe; Margarete Adorf, violin; Gaetano Nasillo, cello; Sergio Azzolini, bassoon; Matthias Spaeter, archlute; Christoph Lehmann, harpsichord, organ

Some composers are ignored for decades, and then all of a sudden a number of discs with their music are released. I fail to understand the mechanisms behind this, but: better late than never. That certainly goes for Giovanni Benedetto Platti who is an interesting composer who worked in the time the baroque style vanished and the classical style emerged. This development has left its mark in Platti's music, in particular in his keyboard sonatas which are recorded completely by the Italian harpsichordist Filippo Emanuele Ravizza (Concerto). Some time ago Naxos released a disc with the six flute sonatas opus 3, and here we have a CPO production with sonatas in various scorings.

Platti was born in Venice in a time when many famous masters of music were active, like Vivaldi, the Marcello brothers, Gasparini and Albinoni. It is perhaps because he felt that under these circumstances his chances to make a career were rather slim that he moved to Germany. Here he became the principal oboist at the court of Prince-Archbishop Lothar Franz von Schönborn in Würzburg. He was held in high esteem by his new employer, who in a letter called him an "incomparable oboist". He not only played the oboe, but also the violin, the cello, the flute and the harpsichord and he was active as composer and as teacher. He was the best-paid musician at the court, earning more than twice of what the Kapellmeister received. In 1764 an Italian musician reported Platti's death in a letter to Padre Martini, and here he mentioned him in one breath with Geminiani and Locatelli.

Things weren't always bright and wonderful in Platti's career, though: in 1724, just two years after his appointment, his employer died, and his successor disbanded the court orchestra. But Platti had the fortune of having built a good relationship with the former prince-archbishop's brother, Rudolf Franz Erwein. He was an avid player of the cello, and this inspired Platti to write pieces with obbligato cello parts, some of which can be heard on this disc. It was thanks to this connection that he was able to spend the next years at Rudolf's court in Wiesentheid. Here he problably also composed those pieces which contain virtuoso bassoon parts. The Wiesentheid library contains another piece with a virtuoso bassoon part by the Italian composer Brescianelli, and this could well be an indication of the presence of a highly skilled bassoonist at the court.

In 1729 the new prince-archbishop of Würzburg re-established the court orchestra, which now contained no less than 49 members. Platti returned to Würzburg, and in 1732 he was appointed second violinist and Kammertenor. The appreciation of his employers through the years, his excellent salary and his marriage to Maria Theresia Lambrucker, first soprano in the court chapel, were all good reasons to stay the rest of his life in Würzburg, despite the fact that it wasn't exactly one of the main cultural centres of Germany.

The programme on this disc has been well put together, guaranteeing a maximum of variation in scoring. All sonatas played here follow the pattern of the Italian sonata da chiesa, with its four movements in a sequence of slow-fast-slow-fast. They combine Italian and German elements: the former are present in the slow expressive movements, the latter in particular in the virtuosic character of the the fast movements.

The very first track, the opening adagio of the Sonata for violin, oboe and bc in D, shows Platti's compositional skills as a beautiful theme is the subject of a dialogue of violin and oboe. Short pauses here and there contribute to the expressive character of this movement. The second movement (allegro) of the Sonata for oboe, cello and bc in g minor is very dramatic and its gets a strong gestural performance here. It is followed by another wonderfully expressive movement (adagio). The largo of the Sonata for violin, cello and bc in G contains great tension with its remarkable melodic development in both parts, and the repeated falling figures.

The Sonata for oboe and bc in c minor begins with a very speechlike adagio assai. The whole sonata contains suspiratio figures which isn't surprising considering the key of c minor. The same key is used in the last piece on this disc, the Sonata for oboe, bassoon and bc in c minor. In particular the last movement is dark and dramatic. At the same time the qualities of both instruments are fully explored in this sonata, and the bassoonist has to use almost the complete range of his instrument.

In between the two sonatas in c minor we hear the Sonata for cello and bc in d minor. In particular in the second movement (allegro) the cello part is brilliant, with sharp accents. The following adagio then sounds very relaxed. This is a very nice sonata which is played with panache by Ilze Grudule, who also impresses with her engaging performances in other sonatas.

This is indicative of the performances as a whole. We have a very good ensemble here, whose members show great technical skills, but also fully explore the qualities of Platti's music. Listening to this disc one really wonders why it has taken so long before his music was discovered. May we see more recordings with his music in the future. Anyone who likes to broaden his musical horizon, and anybody wanting to listen to good music which he hasn't heard many times before should not hesitate to purchase this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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