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Baldassare GALUPPI (1706-1785)
Keyboard Sonatas - Volume 1

Sonata in F, Illy 28 [11:55]
Sonata in F minor, Illy 9 [6:44]
Sonata in C minor, Illy 18 [1st movement] & Illy 4 [2nd movement] [6:33]
Sonata in C, Illy 57 [10:03]
Sonata in B flat, Illy 32 [7:20]
Sonata in G, Illy 53 [6:38]
Sonata in D ('E flat'), Illy 45 [9:57]
Sonata in C, Illy 98 [2:31]
Matteo Napoli (piano)
rec. Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand, March 2009. DDD
NAXOS 8.572263 [62:19]

Experience Classicsonline

Though Baldassare Galuppi is rightly famed for his huge contribution to opera buffa, he was also a prolific and popular composer of keyboard music, particularly sonatas. When British pianist Peter Seivewright released on the Divine Art label a programme of Galuppi's keyboard sonatas in 1999 - reviewed here - it was the first volume in a projected complete set running to ten discs and 90 sonatas. So far, and possibly because of ill health (see footnote), Seivewright appears to have got no further than volume 3 - see review - but in the last decade more sonatas have been unearthed, and there are now known to be over 130. This is the first Naxos CD devoted to Galuppi's music, and volume 1 of his keyboard sonatas. Volume 2 has not yet been released on CD, but is available as a download.

One immediate question about this recording - major or minor, depending on individual sensitivities - is the choice of a modern pianoforte (Steinway D). There will doubtless be many who feel that Galuppi's sonatas belong on a period instrument - whether harpsichord or fortepiano. The sonorities, slender textures and delicate ornamentations of his alternately late-Baroque and forward-looking pre-Galant music are sometimes partially lost in the lush, deep sound of Napoli's piano. Nevertheless, within these self-imposed limitations, Napoli's performance here is creditable - plenty of sensitivity, no misplaced showmanship.

There is no question, however, about Galuppi's masterly, mellifluous musicianship. Sonata after sonata is packed with beautiful melody and fluent invention, and it comes as no surprise that it was not only his opera music that was in great demand. But though Galuppi was himself a keyboard virtuoso, this is idiomatic music written with an eye on, or an ear to, the amateur player - it is varied, beautiful and rewarding, without being technically overwhelming.

Often the music is quite reminiscent of Domenico Scarlatti - the outer movements of the superbly imaginative Sonata in D, for example (incidentally incorrectly catalogued by Hedda Illy in E), or the ebullient two-and-a-half minute, one-movement Sonata in C, Illy 98. There are also reverberations of C.P.E. Bach, as in the refined Sonata in F and the thoughtful Sonata in F minor, and even of J.S. Bach, as in the Sonata in G.

But Galuppi is an original, without doubt, and Napoli's performance makes this altogether a good choice for connoisseurs of 18th century keyboard music, particularly those for whom the idiosyncratic colour of the harpsichord or fortepiano holds little attraction.

Sound quality is generally high, although the Sonata in C, Illy 57 does have a couple of minor imperfections that sound suspiciously like edit joins.



The reviewer refers to Peter Seivewright’s ongoing series having halted at volume 3 ‘possibly due to ill health’. I want to point out for the benefit of potential customers (and the music industry) that Peter is very well indeed – he did in fact undergo surgery not too long ago but is doing very well; his projects (which include several CDs of Bach, a Reger disc and a series of American Piano Sonatas, have also been held up due to his work commitments – he moved from Scotland to help set up and manage the new Department of Music at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. His fourth volume of Galuppi has been recorded and will appear in due course, hopefully with the other projected volumes to follow a little more quickly than heretofore.
Stephen Sutton (Divine Art)



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