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Baldassare GALUPPI (1706-1785)
Keyboard Sonatas - Volume 2

Sonata in B flat, Illy 14 [11:03]
Sonata in D minor, Illy 2 [5:13]
Sonata in C minor, Illy 34 [7:56]
Sonata in C, Illy 27 [12:54]
Sonata in E flat, Illy 24 [11:51]
Sonata in D minor, Illy 56 [7:24]
Sonata in D, Illy 1 [11:26]
Matteo Napoli (piano)
rec. Music Theatre, Auckland University, New Zealand, 31 October-1 November 2009. DDD
NAXOS 8.572490 [68:12]

Experience Classicsonline

Though Baldassare Galuppi is rightly famed for his massive contribution to opera buffa, he was also a prolific and popular composer of keyboard music, particularly sonatas. When British pianist Peter Seivewright released a programme of Galuppi's keyboard sonatas on the Divine Art label in 1999 - reviewed here - it was the first volume in a projected complete set running to ten discs and 90 sonatas. So far Seivewright has got no further than volume 3 (review), following a bout of ill health, though volume 4 has been recorded and is due for release soon. In the last decade, more of Galuppi's sonatas have been unearthed, and there are now known to be over 130. This is the second Naxos CD devoted to Galuppi's music, both of keyboard sonatas played by Italian pianist Matteo Napoli. Volume 1 was released earlier this year to a generally warm reception - see review.

As in Volume 1, Napoli's recital consists of a selection of Sonatas in various keys, ranging in length from five to twelve minutes, mostly consisting of three movements of a slow-fast-fast kind, though there are again a couple of two-movement Sonatas in the style of Domenico Scarlatti. Indeed, Galuppi's music is frequently reminiscent of Scarlatti - hardly a bad thing! - although in the C major Sonata and occasionally elsewhere it is the young Mozart who is clearly brought to mind, whereas in the opening improvisatory bars of the Sonata in C minor there is a brief but startling premonition of Beethoven.

Nonetheless, Galuppi's voice is original, his musicianship masterly and mellifluous. Sonata after Sonata brims with elegant melody and fluent invention, varied, graceful and rewarding, and unblighted by bravura for its own sake. It comes as no surprise that it was not only his opera music that was in great demand. The memorable Sonata in D, one of Galuppi's best, brings Napoli's splendid programme to a sparkling end.

As in volume 1, an immediate question about this recording - major or minor, depending on individual sensitivities - is the choice of a modern pianoforte, the inevitable Steinway D. Doubtless there will 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 compromised by the lush resonances of the piano.

Nevertheless, within these self-imposed limitations, Napoli's account is quite persuasive; on this disc, recorded six months after the first, he comes across as more assured, with sensitivity and subtlety to match his technique, even if his interpretation of tempo markings seems rather liberal, to say the least. Thus, though not a performance or instrument to convert period practice adherents, those for whom the idiosyncratic colour of the harpsichord or fortepiano holds little attraction should find themselves enthusiastic, and no one interested in 18th century music will be disappointed by Galuppi's keyboard gifts. Though this is not a 'Complete Sonatas' series, it would be a shame if Naxos left it at that.

Sound quality is good, if anything a shade up on volume one, in being more natural-sounding. The booklet information, furnished by veteran note-writer Keith Anderson, is detailed if brief. Rather nicely, the photo on the cover shows the very same Venetian scene printed on volume 1's booklet, but with a different artistic take.

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