place of composers in the history books and encyclopedias –
and the frequency with which their compositions are performed
– doesn't always depend on the quality of their output. It is
often a matter of coincidence or of historical circumstance.
The fate of Giovanni Benedetto Platti is a good example. Stylistically
many works point in the direction of classicism, but in history
books the honour of paving the way to the classical style is
given to the sons of Bach and the representatives of the Mannheim
is some doubt as to where and in which year Platti was born:
either in 1692 or 1697, either in or near Padua or in Venice.
He seems to have had several teachers, among them some of the
most important masters of the Italian baroque, like Gasparini,
Vivaldi and the Marcello brothers. In 1722 he entered the service
of Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, Prince-Bishop of Bamberg
and Würzburg, and an ardent lover of Italian music. In Würzburg
he stayed until his death. It is difficult to imagine why he
was willing to stay there, as it was a rather small court with
few connections to the rest of Europe. Perhaps his marriage
with Maria Theresia Lambrucker in 1723 had something to do with
it. She was also in the service of the court as a singer, and
apparently much appreciated. But perhaps he was perfectly happy
at the court of Würzburg, as his employers were very fond of
him. He was described as "incomparable oboist" and
in 1732 he was also appointed as a singer (tenor) and second
violinist. On top of that he was known for his skills as cellist
additional factor for Platti staying in Würzburg was probably
the close friendship with the Prince's brother, Count Rudolf
Franz Erwein von Schönborn, who became Prince-Bishop in 1729,
five years after his brother's sudden death. In the inter-regnum
the musicians at court went through a rough time, as their number
was heavily reduced. But the succession of Count Rudolf resulted
in a restoration of musical life at the court. He was a passionate
and skilled player of the cello, and collected a large number
of compositions for his instrument. Platti's oeuvre contains
a number of pieces with obbligato cello which perhaps were written
for the Count.
six sonatas op. 3 were published in Nuremberg in 1743 and were
dedicated to Peter Philipp von Krufft, a "dilettante flautist"
living in Cologne. The term 'dilettante' doesn't necessarily
mean the same as it does today: 'amateur'. It is rather a person
who does play or compose – sometimes at a 'professional' level
– but not for a living. Italian composers like Albinoni and
the Marcello brothers described themselves as 'dilettantes'.
It is assumed Platti was a flautist himself, but that is not
confirmed in the sources. The fact of the matter is that these
sonatas are very idiomatic compositions, which show that their
composer had a thorough knowledge of the possibilities of the
instrument. As they are technically quite demanding the dedicatee
was probably a highly skilled flautist.
interesting are the stylistic features of these sonatas. Several
elements justify their characterisation as early examples of
the developing classical style. In them we discern rudiments
of the sonata form, the menuet – the favourite dance of the
classical period – and short solo cadenzas, which much later
became standard practice. These aspects demonstrate that Platti
was highly original and could have had quite an influence on
the course of music history if he had been employed elsewhere.
It has also been argued that Platti applied Rousseau's idea
of 'naturalness' in his music well before this ideal was propagated.
From this one may conclude that the neglect of Platti's works
is highly unjustified.
recording by these three artists from Norway convincingly supports
this conclusion. The performances are technically assured, and
the expressive and sometimes quite dramatic features of these
sonatas are thoroughly exploited. One of the highlights is the
largo of the Sonata No. 2, which contains vivid contrasts. These
are realised with great flair and imagination. The ornamentation
is also used for expressive purposes, for instance we can hear
a slight vibrato which can be compared with the 'Bebung', an
important effect used on the clavichord. Interestingly this
very instrument is used here in the realisation of the basso
continuo in Sonata No. 4. This is very uncommon in today's performance
practice, where the instrument is almost exclusively used in
a solo capacity. Of course this requires great sensitivity from
the flautist, and Paul Wåhlberg is well up to the task. Even
so the balance between the flute and the clavichord is problematic.
It helps if you listen to the disc with headphones. In that
case the balance is a good deal better.
'giga' of the Sonata No. 3 requires an effect which Platti refers
to as 'tre:'. It is not quite clear what kind of effect he means,
either tremolo or a trill. "Neither tremolo nor trill seemed
convincing as a solution for this part of the flute sonata.
We chose another solution for which there is no documentation
in Quantz's works or others", Paul Wåhlberg writes in the
booklet. Instead he tries to imitate an effect similar to that
of organ stops such as 'Vogel-Gesang' (bird singing) or 'Kuckuck'
(cuckoo) or the sound of instruments listed in the score of
Leopold Mozart's 'Toy Symphony'. I can't say I find this solution
very convincing either. Perhaps a tremolo would have been a
these sonatas are assumed to have been composed over a considerable
period two different transverse flutes are used, copies after
Denner (c1715) and Greneser (c1750) and tuned at a=390' and
sonatas by Platti fully deserve to be played on the concert platform
and one can only be grateful that they have been recorded by these
artists. This is not their first recording: in 1990 Bernhard Böhm
recorded them on CPO. Without having compared both recordings
in detail, in a random comparison of a number of tracks this recording
came out on top. Paul Wåhlberg - who also has written the informative
programme notes in the booklet - and his colleagues observe all
repeats, which makes this disc about 10 minutes longer than the
one from CPO.
Johan van Veen