Unlike his better-known compatriot and partial contemporary,
the guitarist Mauro Giuliani, Italian composer Giovanni Francesco
Giuliani was fortunate enough to be able to earn a living from
writing instrumental music without needing to go abroad. He
passed most of his life in Florence, which was undergoing a
Vienna-influenced creative efflorescence not typical of Italy
at that time.
Giuliani's Harp Sonatas are not listed in New Grove, but the
booklet notes state that the manuscripts are held in the Luigi
Cherubini Conservatory in Florence. Harp sonatas were a rarity
in Italy, and in that regard these twelve constituted the bulk
of the repertoire of the day! Unfortunately no composition dates
are provided for the works, nor any indication as to how or
if they were grouped by Giuliani.
As to the music, there is no disaffirming the fact that Giuliani
is heavily influenced by Haydn and the Viennese style, but that
is no bad thing. As quintessential Galant-style works, there
is little in the way of profundity - no real sense of drama,
no unexpected harmonic tension - but measured against the standards
of the genre, they are exemplary. Cast in two to five movements
and lasting around six minutes on average, these Sonatas are
elegant, pellucid, mellifluous miniatures of decorous but substantial
charm. Their relative interchangeability only becomes an issue
if the Sonatas are heard end to end, yet even in that case a
very assuasive hour-and-a-quarter awaits the listener, at the
This very generously-timed CD is part of a 'Tuscan
Musical Treasures' series which "aims to promote relatively
unknown Tuscan music from the 16th to 18th centuries." Italian
harpist Lisetta Rossi has been involved in the project for the
last five years, uncovering and performing lost harp pieces
by Tuscany-born or -based composers. This is the first complete
recording of Giuliani's Sonatas.
Rossi plays with Classical poise and style, light but sure of
touch and with an ear for fine, lyrical phrasing. She plays
an original 1818 Erard single-action harp, which has a sweet,
smooth, mellow sound. The cover photo shows detail from the
harp itself, and for harp-spotters there is a full colour photo
in the booklet.
Sound quality is very good. The English-Italian booklet notes
are detailed, informative, well written and well translated.
The notes on Giuliani are by musicologist Gabriele Giacomelli,
those on the harp, almost as lengthy, by Rossi herself, who
includes within her notes speculation on how her Erard harp
might have found its way to America, eventually turning up in
Pennsylvania in 1993!
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