> Anna Bon di Venezia [PW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Anna Bon di VENEZIA (1740-1767)
Six Sonatas for Harpsichord (1757)
Sonata 1 in g minor
Allegro - Andantino - Allegretto
Sonata 2 in B flat major
Allegro non molto - Andante - Allegro
Sonata 3 in F major
Allegretto - Adagio - Minuetto
Sonata 4 in C major
Allegro - Largo - Allegro Assai
Sonata 5 in b minor
Allegro moderato - Adagio non molto - Allegro
Sonata 6 in C major
Allegro - Andante - Minuetto con Variazione
Paule van Parys - Harpsichord
Recorded in St Annenkapel, Diest in April 1995
PAVANE ADW 7338 [66.42]


Experience Classicsonline

This is an interesting disc that brings to light the activity of a female composer of the late Baroque era, with whose name this writer at least was not familiar. While there are one or two common names, Barbara Strozzi being probably the most well-known today, women composers were being heard, and their music published frequently throughout the 18th century. Anna Bon di Venezia (1740-1767) was just such an example, but rather than coming from a rich family which allowed her to indulge an interest in composition, she actually worked as a professional musician; in the service of Frederick, vice-Count of Brandenburg and his wife Wilhelmine von Bayreuth, who was a sister of the flute-playing King Frederick the Great. These six harpsichord sonatas are Bon di Venezia’s Opus 2, published when she was 17.

What this composer might have gone on to achieve we shall never know, for she died at the age of 27. The works show the clear influence of C.P.E. and even of J.C. Bach, and, while impressive as the work of a 17 year old, it is clear that Bon di Venezia was not a Mozart or a Mendelssohn. The sonatas are largely in two voices, and make much use of motivic figures based on arpeggio patterns, as was characteristic of the Mannheim school. However, the sense of development that C.P.E. Bach would have created; the impression that some triadic motifs and repeated chords were only a starting point for further invention; is not so apparent here. However, the sonatas are imbued throughout with a pleasant sense of movement and some lyrical melodic writing is a feature of the slow movements.

Paule van Parys has recorded music by a number of neglected keyboard composers, including Trazegnies and Grétry as well as the only set of harpsichord sonatas by Cherubini. Her playing on this disc is precise and accurate, but throughout she seems to be unwilling to really engage with the music, or to search for any greater depth within it. Admittedly the material tends more towards the ‘pleasant’ than the ‘thought-provoking’ but the performance is generally rather superficial. The dexterity is apparent, although there is a tendency to rush into the cadences, but there seems to be little effort to find the shape of the phrase and an unwillingness to experiment with those subtle variations of length that give the impression of ebb and flow at the harpsichord. It sometimes sounds like van Parys’ dinner was getting cold in the next room. The instrument, by Walter Maene, sounds well, with a round bass and a treble that possesses clarity without brittleness. It is also well recorded, with a good balance of the parts and a pleasantly domestic ambience. It is just a pity that van Parys does not seem to be willing to give a little more of herself to allow Anna Bon di Venezia to come across as anything more than ‘interesting’.

Peter Wells


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