The Italian harpsichordist Filippo Emanuele Ravizza seems to
have a special interest in lesser-known composers of the 18th
century. Recently he recorded the complete harpsichord sonatas
by Giovanni Benedetto Platti; the first volume was reviewed
Before that he had turned his attention to Pietro Domenico Paradisi,
like Platti a composer who went abroad to seek employment. Whereas
Platti spent most of his life in Germany, Paradisi - also known
as Paradies - settled in London in 1746.
Paradisi was from Naples, as he added to his name on the title
page of his sonatas of 1754. Little is known about his formative
years. It is assumed that he was a pupil of Nicola Porpora,
but there is no documentary evidence of this. As with most Neapolitans
he started writing music for the stage, but that wasn't received
well. Around 1740 he moved to Venice, and here his forays into
the field of music theatre also found little in the way of appreciation.
His stay in Venice had a lasting influence on his development
as a composer of keyboard music. He must have become acquainted
with the keyboard works of the then dominant Venetian composer,
After his arrival in London he again presented an opera, and
once again failed to convince the music world of his capabilities
in this department. Charles Burney described his arias as "ill-phrased"
and noticed a lack of grace. He was full of praise, though,
for Paradisi as a composer and teacher of the keyboard. Among
his pupils was Thomas Linley the elder. In 1754 the 12 sonatas
which are the subject of this disc were published in London.
They were dedicated to Augusta, Princess of Wales, and mother
of the later King George III. These sonatas must have been very
popular as they were reprinted five times between 1765 and 1790.
They are written in the galant idiom of the mid-18th century,
and that is expressed by their structure in two movements. Almost
all of them have a fast tempo indication, like allegro, presto
and vivace. Some refer to a moderate tempo, like andante and
moderato. There is just one really slow movement: the second
of the Sonata III, 'larghetto e cantabile'. The tempo
indications only refer to a basic tempo or character as many
movements contain episodes which require a somewhat slower speed.
This is an indication that many movements encompass considerable
contrasts. The opening presto from the Sonata V is just
one example, with its often abrupt changes of mood. There seem
to be clear influences of Sturm und Drang here, a style
which was common across the continent. Many movements also suggest
contrasts in dynamics. On the harpsichord - the instrument for
which Paradisi explicitly composed his sonatas - these can only
be realised by changing the manual, and that is what Ravizzi
does. There are other influences as well: the closing allegro
of the Sonata VI and the presto from the Sonata VIII
are two examples of movements which are strongly reminiscent
of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.
This set was recorded in 1995 by Enrico Baiano for the Italian
label Symphonia. I generally prefer his performances as he is
more creative in his interpretation, for instance in regard
to ornamentation and the use of agogical means. His use of rubato
tends to be a little exaggerated, though. What speaks in favour
of Ravizzi's recording is the fact that he observes all repeats
as indicated by the composer. Baiano, on the other hand, often
omits repeats, probably in order to limit himself to one disc.
Ravizzi also offers two further pieces, a Fantasia in
various movements, and the Concerto in B flat. The latter
work was originally written for harpsichord or organ with strings,
and recently recorded by Kah-Ming Ng with his ensemble Charivari
Agréable (reviewed here).
Such concertos could often also be performed without accompaniment,
and that is how Ravizzi has recorded the piece.
His performances are technically accomplished and lively, with
a good sense of contrast. He plays a copy of a Dulcken harpsichord
of 1742. Its sound tends to be a bit aggressive which is enhanced
by the close miking. Those who are used to listening to a disc
through headphones would be well advised to turn the volume
down. It is also advisable not to listen to these discs at a
The track-list omits the keys of the sonatas; thanks to various
internet sites I was able to add them. There is some confusion
about the Fantasia: most track-lists consider it the
last movement of the Sonata III, but the liner-notes
clearly indicate that this is an independent piece which has
been preserved in manuscript.
To sum up, this is a rewarding set which lovers of harpsichord
music will certainly enjoy.
Johan van Veen