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Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (1697-1763)
Sonatas for Clavicembalo [1730-40]
Sonata no. 8 in C Minor *
Sonata no. 7 in F Major *
Sonata no. 1 in D Minor **
Sonata no. 3 in F Major **
Sonata no. 4 in G Minor **
Sonata no. 9 in G Major *
Sonata no. 10 in A Minor *
Elaine Funaro, fortepiano * and harpsichord **
Rec: October 1997, Mankato, Minnesota, January 1998, Durham, North Carolina.
WILDBOAR WLBR 9901 [77.20]


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Italian-born Giovanni Benedetto Platti moved to Germany at the age of 25, where he became a member of the court chapel of Fürstbischof Johann von Schönborn. He did not write a great deal of music - some harpsichord concertos, flute concertos, harpsichord sonatas and vocal works. This disc features a selection of his harpsichord sonatas, played on both harpsichord and fortepiano.

These works come from a period when new trends were appearing in keyboard music. Coming from Italy in the 1730s and 1740s, this music featured vocally-based melodies, with question and answer phrases, and a closer attention to feelings and sentiments. All the sonatas here are in the Italian sonata form - that is, three or four movements, typically marked allegro, adagio, and allegro, or adagio, allegro, adagio, allegro - as opposed to that which Bach used most often, the partita form, which featured a series of dance movements.

Platti’s music is closer to that of C.P.E. Bach than Johann Sebastian Bach, even though he was a contemporary of ‘Old’ Bach. One can hear the similar structures and the way that Platti builds his melodic material is similar to C.P.E. Bach’s style of using binary movements with distinct question and answer sections. At times, such as in the opening adagio of the 7th sonata, one marvels at the subtlety of the melodies and their progression; the music almost sounds improvised. Yet in other works, one is made to think of Scarlatti, such as in the rousing opening adagio of the 1st sonata, with its movement up and down the keyboard, or the quirky intervals of the third movement of the 3rd sonata. The opening of the 9th sonata sounds almost Mozartian in its simplicity, and other movements hint at similar musical material.

But the real stars of this disc - other than Elaine Funaro, who approaches this music with energy and vigour, making it sound above all fun - are the instruments used. A beautiful sounding fortepiano, with a lush, round sound, is used for the first two and last two sonatas. This instrument has an action "that can be shifted so that the hammers strike only one of the two strings for every note". This gives it a subtle, light tone, which is unique. The brass-strung harpsichord used for the other four sonatas is also a wonderful instrument, with a full, deep sound, though it suffers from a bit too much reverb in the recording.

Listening to this disc, I was drawn into the playful, enjoyable sound of the music, and the attention to detail that Elaine Funaro brings to this recording. Having never heard Platti’s works before, I was delighted to discover a little-known composer interpreted with gusto and verve. This fine recording is excellent for its music, performance and instruments.

Kirk McElhearn

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