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Baldassare GALUPPI (1706 - 1785): "25 Harpsichord Sonatas"

Ilario Gregoletto, harpsichord

rec: June 10 - 15, 1990a, July 10 - 15, 1996b, June 16 - 19, 1998c & April 7 - 10, 2000d, Vittorio Veneto (Treviso), Centro Studio Claviere
Newton Classics - 8802112 (4 CDs) (R) ( 2012) (3.59'25")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Sonata in f minor (Illy 9)c; Sonata in g minor (Illy 10)c; Sonata in g minord; Sonata in d minor (Illy 11)d; Sonata in F (Illy 12)c; Sonata in D (Illy 13)c; Sonata in B flat (Illy 14)d; Sonata in E (Illy 16)a; Sonata in Ed; Sonata in E flat (Illy 24)d; Sonata in E flat (Illy 17)b; Sonata in B flat (Illy 23)b; Sonata in E (Illy 25)c; Sonata in A (Illy 26)a; Sonata in C (Illy 27)a; Sonata in F (Illy 28)a; Sonata in B flat (Illy 32)d; Sonata in c minor (Illy 34)a; Sonata in A (Illy 37)d; Sonata in D (Illy 39)d; Sonata in g minor (Illy 44)a; Sonata in D (Illy 45)b; Sonata in D (Illy 46)b; Sonata in A (Illy 47)b; Sonata in C (Illy 55)d

When Antonio Vivaldi died in 1741 Baldassare Galuppi took his place as the main composer in Venice. He soon became one of the most fashionable composers of Italy. It is telling that some of Vivaldi's compositions were sold under the name of Galuppi. He probably received his first music lessons from his father, a barber who also played the violin in small orchestras. At the age of 16 he already composed his first opera which wasn't received very well. He was sent to Antonio Lotti, organist at San Marco, to study the organ and counterpoint. Soon he was playing the harpsichord in opera performances and composed substitute arias for revivals and pasticcios. Opera was to play a key role in his professional career. The work-list in New Grove lists a large number of operas, both serious and comic. In addition he composed a significant number of serenatas, oratorios and sacred liturgical pieces.

Among his instrumental works keyboard music takes first place. Twelve sonatas for harpsichord were printed as op. 1 and op. 2 respectively in London. Three further sonatas were included in collections which were printed in Nuremberg. The largest part of his keyboard works have been preserved in manuscript. The present set of four discs is devoted to these unpublished sonatas.

Galuppi's sonatas come in three different forms. Most are in three movements, but in a different order. Some sonatas begin with a movement in a slow or moderate tempo, which is followed by two fast movements. The central movement has most substance. These sonatas seem to be inspired by the Italian opera overture. Most sonatas in this set are of this type. Others bear the traces of the classical sonata with the sequence fast - slow - fast. The fourth disc includes some sonatas of this kind. The third group consists of sonatas with just one movement. Gregoletto plays one of them, the Sonata in d minor (Illy 11), which in one source is called Toccata per il cembalo. It is a brilliant piece which one probably won't associate with a composer like Galuppi.

It is evidence that there is quite a breadth of variety within the corpus of his sonatas. They are all written in the galant idiom. This means that the right hand has the bulk of the melodic and thematic material, and the left hand is largely confined to an accompanying role. Galuppi also makes frequently use of Alberti basses. However, many of his sonatas or individual movements are substantial. The Sonata in F (Illy 12) includes a presto which is dominated by counterpoint and closes with a giga of a quite dramatic character. The indication of a dance in some sonatas doesn't mean that much: in many cases the original rhythm of the dance is absent.

The second disc ends with the expressive Sonata in D (Illy 46) which is the longest in this set. Another remarkable piece is the Sonata in f minor (Illy 9) whose first movement includes a modulation which goes to D flat before returning to the main theme. This is rather unusual for the time and one doesn't immediately expect a piece of such a dark character from Galuppi's pen. Some movements are not unlike a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti. I was also struck by the opening statement of the Sonata in c minor (Illy 34) which reminded me of the Fantasia in c minor (BWV 906) by Bach.

Ilario Gregoletto plays the copy of a French harpsichord by Pierre Donzelague who worked in Lyons in the first quarter of the 18th century. This may seem a rather unlikely choice for Italian keyboard music. However, Galuppi travelled across Europe, visiting Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Hamburg on his way to Russia, and later also visited Johann Adolf Hasse in Vienna. Some of his sonatas were printed in London, and from that angle one could argue that his sonatas can be played on other instruments than Italian harpsichords. Moreover, the contrasts within the sonatas seem to require a double manual harpsichord, whereas Italian instruments usually had just one manual. In this context I would like to mention a disc with sonatas by Galuppi which was released by Accent. Here Luca Guglielmi plays two different harpsichords, but also the clavichord, the organ and even the fortepiano. The latter is certainly an interesting option, considering that Bartolomeo Cristofori made his first fortepianos in the early 18th century. It is quite possible that Galuppi knew such instruments.

Gregoletto delivers generally outstanding performances. The differences in character between the various sonatas come off convincingly. His playing is lively and the dramatic and expressive aspects of some movements are not lost on him. It is a shame that the sound quality isn't always of the best. Here and there the harpsichord produces a rather sharp and not always pleasant sound which seems the effect of the recording rather than the instrument. The sound in the Sonata in C (Illy 27) which closes the first disc is very odd. The first movement sounds alright, but at the start of the second the balance seems to shift to the right channel where is stays until the end.

However, these are minor blots on a production which is otherwise most welcome. It shows that there is more to Galuppi than light-weight stuff as most of these sonatas are of substantial quality and deserve to be part of the repertoire of today's keyboard players.

The booklet includes useful liner-notes in English, German and French by Andrew Woolley. The track-list unfortunately omits the indication of the numbers in the catalogue compiled by Hedda Illy. As far as possible I have added these from sources on the internet. In some cases it was impossible to add a catalogue number as in said sources several sonatas have the same number.

Johan van Veen ( 2014)

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