Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Sonata in B flat major, R.1 [3:23]
Sonata in A major, R.2 [3:14]
Sonata in D major, R.3 [4:22]
Sonata in C major, R.4 [3:52]
Sonata in D major, R.5 [2:18]
Sonata in G major, R.6 [2:45]
Sonata in F major, R.7 [3:05]
Sonata in A major, R.8 [3:36]
Sonata in G minor, R.9 [2:16]
Sonata in G minor, R.10 [2:45]
Sonata in B flat major, ‘Perfidia’, R.11 [6:31]
Sonata in C minor, R.12 [5:06]
Sonata in A major, R.13 [4:30]
Sonata in G major, R.14 [3:06]
Sonata in A major, R.15 [4:19]
Sonata in F major, R.16 [2:38]
Sonata in E flat major, R.17 [4:00]
Sonata in A major, R.18 [4:13]
Victor Sangiorgio (piano)
rec. 16-17 August, 2007, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK
NAXOS 8.570718 [66:49]

It is on his numerous operas that Cimarosa’s enduring reputation is built. But he was not only an operatic composer. He wrote some fine sacred music, such as the Requiem in G, a Dixit Dominus and a Magnificat in D major. There is good music to be heard in some of his chamber works, too. How far, and in precisely what form, these sonatas should contribute to our sense of his musical achievement is a little problematic, however.

These pieces were unknown until the 1920s when a manuscript volume was discovered in Florence, containing 81 single movements for keyboard and carrying the title “Raccolta di varie Sonate / per il fortepiano / compose dal Signor Cimarosa”. That title is the most substantial evidence for Cimarosa’s composition of these previously unknown pieces. Six more keyboard movements have turned up since. There seems to be no very strong reason to doubt Cimarosa’s responsibility for the works (in the absence of other claimants), though it should be stressed that neither manuscript is in his hand.

In the British Library is another manuscript which contains a three-movement sonata made up of movements which appear singly in the Florentine manuscript. Other pieces in the Florentine manuscript also contain directions such as “segue Allegro” or “segue Andante”. It therefore seems reasonable to assemble the 87 separate movements into three (or occasionally two) movement works, especially since the individual movements are so very short - the longest on this disc is just over three minutes, most are less than two minutes and quite a number are less than one minute long. The present disc is based on the edition of the sonatas by Nick Rossi (the R. numbers in the track listening refer to this edition) published by Artaria.

The music is consistently pleasant and tuneful, often lively and occasionally gracefully poetic. No great emotional depths are attempted, and the CD is best sampled rather than listened to in its entirety. There are many attractive pieces - such as the andante of Rossi 7, the closing allegro of Rossi 11, the opening allegro of Rossi 12 or the largo of Rossi 17. Just occasionally one senses the composer’s ‘dramatic’ experience.

Evidently Cimarosa chose not to publish these pieces (assuming that they are his). Were they perhaps for use with pupils (as Rossi and Allan Badley suggest in their booklet notes)? Or conceivably they were ‘private’ pieces never intended for public performance?

Playing a modern piano, Victor Sangiorgio is sympathetic to the music’s origins in the early days of the piano and, making only very sparing use of the pedals, his performances have crispness and (generally) an appropriate sense of scale. While this is hardly music of major importance, it is never less than pleasing and it affords useful insights into the continuity of the Neapolitan keyboard tradition.

Glyn Pursglove