Domenico ZIPOLI (1688-1726)
Complete Suites and partitas, op. 1 (1716)
Suite I in B minor [15:08]
Suite II in G minor [15:08]
Suite III in C major [13:17]
Partita in C major [8:07]
Suite IV in D minor [8:56]
Partita in A minor [10:01]
Giovanni Nesi (piano)
rec. 2014, Chiesa di Santa Chiara, Prato, Italy

The name of Domenico Zipoli was only familiar to me through the arrangement for oboe, cello and strings of his organ piece All’Elevazione. Born in the golden decade of the 1680s, he died young in Cordoba in Argentina. In his 37 years, he managed to fit in quite a life, studying at the Medici court in Florence and with Alessandro Scarlatti in Rome and Naples and becoming a Jesuit missionary in South America. He led the musical life of Cordoba for the last decade of his life, and his reputation there was retained by the preservation of his manuscripts and the naming of a number of streets, a bridge and school after him.

When it comes to Baroque keyboard works, I belong in the “anachronist” camp whose members much prefer the sound of the modern piano to the harpsichord and similar more authentic instruments. Angela Hewitt’s recordings, most prominently of Bach, but also Rameau and Couperin, are among my most loved recordings. Murray Perahia’s Handel and Scarlatti recital is one of my Desert Island Discs. When I saw this recording on the review list, I assumed that it would be performed on either the organ or harpsichord, and was delighted to find that Giovanni Nesi was playing a modern grand. Not surprisingly, this is the first recording of Zipoli’s opus 1 keyboard collection on this instrument, but there are recordings on (Tactus - review) and a 1720 Cristfori piano (Albany). The works are part of his Sonate d’intavolatura per Organo e Cimbalo. Book 1 consists of liturgical pieces for organ, while Book 2 – which is presented here – comprises works for harpsichord.

Despite his study with Scarlatti senior, these works do not possess the rhythmic dynamism of Domenico Scarlatti. A closer parallel is with the suites of Handel and Rameau. The two Partitas make the most call on the performer’s skills, but in general, these are not works to show off virtuosity. The Suites, in four or five movements, have the standard French movements, such as allemanda, sarabanda, corrente, gavotta and so on.

Giovanni Nesi is a new name to me. Given that he has only made two other recordings, the statement in the booklet that he is “regarded as one of the outstanding musicians of his generation” might be seen as rather overstating matters. Nevertheless, his performances here in admittedly not overly complex music are perfectly fine. There were times when I would have liked a little more vitality, but that may be more the responsibility of the composer. The notes provides as much information on the composer as one could wish, and the sound quality is very good.

If you have appreciated Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia playing Bach, Handel and others on the modern piano, then you will enjoy making the acquaintance of Zipoli and Nesi.

David Barker

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