musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Baldassare GALUPPI (1706 - 1785): Sei Sonate a tre a due violini e basso continuo

Accademia dei Solinghi

rec: Nov 8 - 10, 2010, Chieri (Turin), Sala Conceria
Dynamic - CDS 694 ( 2011) (54'05")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/I

Sonata No 1 in A; Sonata No 2 in F; Sonata No 3 in D; Sonata No 4 in G; Sonata No 5 in B flat; Sonata No 6 in E

Claudio Adriani, Abramo Raule, violin; Alessandro Peiretti, cello; Rita Peiretti, harpsichord

For some centuries Venice was one of the main centres of music-making in Italy. In the early 18th century Antonio Vivaldi was the key figure at the music scene, composing numerous operas, sacred works and instrumental music. After his death in 1741 his place was taken by Baldassare Galuppi, who soon became the most fashionable Italian master. His popularity was such that pieces by other composers were sold as written by Galuppi. One example is a setting of the Dixit Dominus which was purchased by the court in Dresden as a composition by Galuppi. Only fairly recently the true identity of the composer was discovered: Antonio Vivaldi.

Galuppi was born in Burano which explains his nickname Buranello. His father was a violinist, who worked as a barber for a living. Galuppi's main teacher was Antonio Lotti. The English journalist Charles Burney visited Galuppi in 1770 and wrote: "Signor Galuppi was a scholar of the famous Lotti, and very early taken notice as a good harpsichord player, and a genius in composition. (...) He certainly merits all that can be done for him, being one of the few remaining original geniusses of the best school perhaps that Italy ever saw. His compositions are always ingenious and natural, and I may add, that he is a good contrapuntist, and a friend to poetry."

Galuppi has mainly become famous as a composer of operas, both serious and comic. His output in this genre is huge. In addition his work-list includes a large number of serenatas, oratorios and liturgical music. The largest part of his instrumental music is for keyboard. His oevre for instrumental ensemble is relatively limited: eight concertos for harpsichord and strings, seven concerti a quattro and the six trio sonatas which are the subject of this disc. They probably date from around 1760; they were not printed but have been preserved in a manuscript which is kept in the library of the University of Uppsala.

The judgement of Charles Burney that Galuppi was a "good contrapuntist" is affirmed by these sonatas which are written in the galant idiom. They are also an expression of the ideal of naturalness which was propagated by the Italian violin virtuoso and composer Giuseppe Tartini. All the sonatas are in three movements: fast - slow - fast. Although the two violins are basically treated on equal footing, in several movements the first violin dominates, like the the first and last from the Sonata No 1 in A and in the largo from the Sonata No 3 in D. The adagio from the Sonata No. 2 in F is notable for its expression, partly through the use of general pauses. One of the most exuberant and technically brilliant movements is the closing allegro from the Sonata No 4 in G.

The Sonata No.6 in E has a remarkable middle movement, which is called Dialogo tra Pasquino e Marforio, in the form of a recitative. This is explained in the liner-notes: "Pasquinio and Marforio are names still used today in Rome for two statutes [=statues] from the Roman age, on which in past centuries the inhabitants of the Eternal City used to place mocking epigraphs and messages (called 'Pasquinate') referring to the establishment or public personalities. The statues were also called 'talking statues'; in Rome there were no fewer than six statues of this type, though Pasquino and Marforio were the most famous. Galuppi's short recitative may then be a playful allusion to some fact or event witnessed at the time of composition, or it might bear cryptic references to his time which, at the moment, we cannot clarify". This can only become clearer if we know for sure the exact date and place of composition.

These trio sonatas are late specimens of a genre soon to disappear to make way for trios in which all parts were treated strictly equally, like the string trio. The Accademia dei Solinghi delivers good performances which may be a little less polished than we are used to hearing from the best ensembles of today. I have greatly enjoyed this disc, though, and if you decide to purchase it you certainly won't be disappointed. Music and performance make this recording well worth investigating.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

Relevant links:

Accademia dei Solinghi

CD Reviews