Giovanni Francesco GIULIANI (c.1760-1818)
Sonata no.1 in C [6:22]
Sonata no.2 in B flat [7:59]
Sonata no.3 in E flat [6:06]
Sonata no.4 in F [4:27]
Sonata no.5 in E flat [5:35]
Sonata no.6 in C [7:18]
Sonata no.7 in B flat [5:57]
Sonata no.8 in F [6:14]
Sonata no.9 in F [6:23]
Sonata no.10 in B flat [6:20]
Sonata no.11 in E flat [7:47]
Sonata no.12 in C [8:05]
Lisetta Rossi (harp)
rec. Villa di Corliano, San Giuliano Terme, Pisa, Italy, 17-19 May 2010. DDD
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 very least.
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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Played with poise and style, light but sure of touch and with an ear for fine, lyrical phrasing.