Giovanni Benedetto Platti was born in Padua
or its immediate environs. His musical life was intimately bound
up with the aristocratic Catholic family of the Schönborn - there
is an account of the family’s rise in Sylvia Schraut’s Das
Haus Schönborn. Ein familienbiographie
, 2005 - of whom generation
after generation occupied significant and enriching posts in the
hierarchy of the church. It was in 1722 that Platti made his way
north to Würzburg along with Fortunato Chelleri, Raphaele Signorini,
Girolamo Bassani and others. Platti was initially employed as
an oboist by Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, who had become
Prince-Archbishop of Bamberg and Würzburg in 1718. Marrying a
court soprano, Maria Theresia Lambrucke, in 1723, Platti remained
in Würzburg or in the nearby establishments of other members of
the family for the rest of his life; Johann Philipp Franz, his
first Schönborn patron, died in 1724.
Appropriately enough the cover illustration for this disc is of baroque sculpture in the garden of the Würzburg Residence. This was built during Platti’s years there; Tiepolo decorated part of the building with frescoes, one of which contains a portrait of Platti playing the cello. Platti served the family in many musical capacities – as a singer and teacher of singing, as oboist, violinist, harpsichordist and flautist and, presumably, a cellist. And as a composer.
Rudolf Franz Erwein, Count of Schönbron (1677-1754), one of the brothers of Platti’s first Würzburg patron, was a cellist of some ability. Rudolph Franz Erwein Platti wrote a good number of cello concertos, two books of cello sonatas and much else – including all the material to be heard on this present disc, all preserved in manuscript at Wiesensteid, where Rudolf Franze Erwein had his castle.
Platti’s early grounding in the Venetian baroque - his father worked at San Marco - especially the example of Vivaldi, is naturally evident in his music. Nor could he escape the all-pervading influence of Corelli. One suspects that he had listened to some of the music of Pergolesi too and, indeed, to the new galant style emerging amongst contemporary German composers. The result, for all these eclectic influences, is music of fair individuality, music which occupies that liminal territory between the baroque and the classical, a territory which modern performers are doing so much to rediscover.
The four Ricercate - all that remains of a putative set of six - are fascinating in the way they deploy the combination of high and low instruments, treated as voices of equal importance, each given opportunities to lead and required to accompany elsewhere. Three of the Ricercate are in four movements, in the Sonata da Chiesa disposition of slow-fast-slow-fast; No. III has just three movements (allegro-siziliana-allegro). Platti’s slow movements are elegant and nuanced, but also adventurous, and more than one of them might be designated arioso; one is reminded of Platti’s experience as a singer and a teacher of singing. The faster movements are exuberant and rhythmically forceful. Platti’s ear for harmony is quite sophisticated and there are some very pleasing textures.
The two sonatas for cello also follow the pattern of the Sonata da Chiesa as regards the disposition of the movements. But they are rather different listening experiences. In the Ricercate the full range of the cello is deployed, with particular emphasis on the top of that range. In the sonatas the emphasis is much more on the lower end, and the top of the instrument’s compass is eschewed. The continuo is also given a rather different role. It is given a greater role in the decoration of the cello’s melodic statements and in sustaining the harmonic fabric of the whole. In the continuo writing, too, there is naturally a greater stress here upon weight and gravity of sound.
Both the Ricarcate and the Sonatas, in their different ways, make for fascinating listening, especially when played and recorded as well as they are here. The Neumeyer Consort have found a thoroughly persuasive and convincingly idiomatic manner for this music, a manner which recognises both the ‘historical’ baroque and the ‘anticipatory’ galant
, proto-classical, elements in its make up. The results make for delightful, emotion-involving, thought-provoking listening.