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Pietro Domenico PARADIES (PARADISI) (1707 - 1791): Sonate di gravicembalo

Filippo Emanuele Ravizza, harpsichord

rec: [no date], Bernareggio (Milan), Bartok Studio
Concerto - CD 2008 (2 CDs) (© 2011) (2.19'28")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list
Scores Sonatas 1, 6, 10 & 11

Concerto in B flat; Fantasia; Sonata I in G [1]; Sonata II in B flat [1]; Sonata III in E [1]; Sonata IV in c minor [1]; Sonata V in F [1]; Sonata VI in A [1]; Sonata VII in B flat [1]; Sonata VIII in e minor [1]; Sonata IX in a minor [1]; Sonata X in D [1]; Sonata XI in F [1]; Sonata XII in C

Source: [1] Sonate di gravicembalo, 1754

The Italian harpsichordist Filippo Emanuele Ravizza seems to have a special interest in lesser-known composers of the 18th century. Recently he recorded the complete harpsichord sonatas by Giovanni Benedetto Platti. Before he had turned his attention to Pietro Domenico Paradisi, like Platti a composer who went abroad to seek for employment. Whereas Platti spent most of his life in Germany, Paradisi - also known as Paradies - settled in London in 1746.

Paradisi was from Naples, as he added to his name on the title page of his sonatas of 1754. Little is known about his formative years. It is assumed that he was a pupil of Nicola Porpora, but there is no documentary evidence of this. As with most Neapolitans he started writing music for the stage, but that wasn't received well. Around 1740 he moved to Venice, and here his forays into the field of music theatre also found little appreciation. His stay in Venice had a lasting influence on his development as a composer of keyboard music, though, as he must have become acquainted with the keyboard works of the then dominant Venetian composer, Baldassare Galuppi.

After his arrival in London he again presented an opera, and once again failed to convince the music world of his capabilities in this department. Charles Burney described his arias as "ill-phrased" and noticed a lack of grace. He was full of praise, though, for Paradisi as a composer and teacher of the keyboard. Among his pupils was Thomas Linley the elder. In 1754 the 12 sonatas which are the subject of this disc were published in London. They were dedicated to Augusta, Princess of Wales, and mother of the later King George III. These sonatas must have been very popular as they were reprinted five times between 1765 and 1790.

They are written in the galant idiom of the mid-18th century, and that is expressed by their structure in two movements. Almost all of them have a fast tempo indication, like allegro, presto and vivace. Some refer to a moderate tempo, like andante and moderato. There is just one really slow movement: the second of the Sonata III in E, 'larghetto e cantabile'. The tempo indications only refer to a basic tempo or character as many movements contain episodes which require a somewhat slower speed. This is an indication that many movements encompass considerable contrasts. The opening presto from the Sonata V in F is just one example, with its often abrupt changes of mood. There seem to be clear influences of the Sturm und Drang here, a style which was common at the continent. Many movements also suggest contrasts in dynamics. On the harpsichord - the instrument for which Paradisi explicitly composed his sonatas - these can only be realised by changing the manual, and that is what Ravizzi does. There are other influences as well: the closing allegro of the Sonata VI in A and the presto from the Sonata VIII in e minor are two examples of movements which are strongly reminiscent of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.

This set was recorded in 1995 by Enrico Baiano for the Italian label Symphonia. I generally prefer his performances as he is more creative in his interpretation, for instance in regard to ornamentation and the use of agogical means. His use of rubato tends to be a little exaggerated, though. What speaks in favour of Ravizzi's recording is the fact that he observes all repeats as indicated by the composer. Baiano, on the other hand, often omits repeats, probably in order to limit himself to one disc. Ravizzi also offers two further pieces, a Fantasia in various movements, and the Concerto in B flat. The latter work was originally written for harpsichord or organ with strings, and recently recorded by Kah-Ming Ng with his ensemble Charivari Agréable. Such concertos could often also be performed without accompaniment, and that is how Ravizzi recorded this piece.

His performances are technically accomplished and lively, with a good sense of contrast. He plays a copy of a Dulcken harpsichord of 1742. Its sound tends to be a bit aggressive which is enhanced by the close miking. Those who are used to listening to a disc through headphones would be well advised to turn the volume down. It is also advisable not to listen to these discs at a stretch.

The track-list omits the keys of the sonatas; thanks to various internet sites I was able to add them. There is some confusion about the Fantasia: most track-lists consider it the last movement of the Sonata III in E, but the liner-notes clearly indicate that this is an independent piece which has been preserved in manuscript.

To sum up, this is a rewarding set which lovers of harpsichord music will certainly enjoy.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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