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Domenico ALBERTI (c1717 - 1740/46): VIII Sonate per Cembalo, op. 1

Filippo Emanuele Ravizzi, harpsichord

rec: [date and place not given]
Concerto - CD 2067 ( 2010) (63'59")

Sonata I in G, op. 1,1; Sonata II in F, op. 1,2; Sonata III in C, op. 1,3; Sonata IV in g minor, op. 1,4; Sonata V in A, op. 1,5; Sonata VI in G, op. 1,6; Sonata VII in F, op. 1,7; Sonata VIII in G, op. 1,8

Domenico Alberti will be an unknown quantity to most lovers of classical music. But most of them will know the so-called Alberti bass, which New Grove defines as a "left-hand accompaniment figure in keyboard music consisting of broken triads whose notes are played in the order: lowest, highest, middle, highest". This figure appears frequently in keyboard music in the second and third quarters of the 18th century. It is called after Alberti, because he is considered the first to use it in his keyboard music. This had guaranteed him a place in the books on music history. In his programme notes Filippo Emanuele Ravizzi expresses his doubts about this claim, though, stating that this figure was used well before Alberti since the beginning of the 18th century.

But the fact that a composer figures in history books doesn't guarantee his music being performed. I am not aware of having heard anything by him before. In his time he was equally famous as a harpsichordist and as a singer, who sometimes accompanied himself. Although formally he was an amateur he studied with two famous composers, Antonio Lotti and Antonio Biffi. That he must have been a man of some reputation is also proven by the fact that a former pupil claimed the sonatas played here were his. It was mainly as a response to these false claims that they were published by Walsh in London in 1748. Charles Burney called him "an exquisite harpsichord player, and author of elegant and pleasing lessons for this instrument".

This characterization points into the direction of the galant style. And indeed, the eight sonatas opus 1 reflect that idiom which was so popular in the second quarter of the 18th century. All sonatas have two movements which are both fast (allegro, allegro assai, presto) or moderately fast (andante, allegro moderato, allegro ma non tanto). The second movements of the Sonatas III and VII are menuets, the latter with additional variations. All movements are in binary form. The emphasis is on the melody played in the right hand, whereas the left hand is largely reduced to providing accompaniment. And it is here that the figure of the Alberti bass shows up.

It is nice that these sonatas are recorded and can be enjoyed. Because that is exactly what they were written for: musical entertainment. They were first and foremost written to be played by amateurs for their personal enjoyment. This means that if one purchases this disc one is well advised to listen to a couple of sonatas at a stretch. The performance by Filippo Emanuele Ravizza gives every reason to enjoy these sonatas. His playing is technically immaculate and lively. The booklet doesn't give any information about the instrument he uses nor the date and place of the recording.

Johan van Veen ( 2010)

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