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Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (c1697 - 1763)
Sonate à tre - Trio sonatas from the Schönborn-Wiesentheid collection
Sonata for violin, cello and bc in D (WD 681) [13:54]
Sonata for oboe, bassoon and bc in c minor (WD 695) [9:15]
Sonata for violin, cello and bc in e minor (WD 677) [14:15]
Sonata for violin, cello [bassoon] and bc in c minor (WD 694) [9:22]
Sonata for violin, oboe and bc in D (WD 682) [14:29]
Sonata for violin, cello [bassoon] in d minor (WD 687) [11:17]
Radio Antiqua
rec. 2018, Koepelkerk, Renswoude, Netherlands
RAMÉE RAM1801 [72:32]

It must have been about ten years ago that I became acquainted with the music of Giovanni Benedetto Platti. Several discs of his music were released, and it didn’t take long before he developed into one of my favourite composers. Since that time I have heard several more recordings of his music, and nothing from his pen has ever disappointed me. His music is always at least good, often much more than that. The present disc attests to that.

Platti was born in northern Italy, probably in Padua, and spent some of his childhood years in Venice, at a time when many famous masters of music were active. These included Vivaldi, the Marcello brothers, Gasparini and Albinoni. It was perhaps because he felt that under these circumstances his chances of making a career were rather slim that he moved to Germany. Here he became the principal oboist at the court of Prince-Archbishop Lothar Franz von Schönborn in Würzburg. He was held in high esteem by his new employer, who in a letter called him an “incomparable oboist”. He not only played the oboe, but also the violin, the cello, the flute and the harpsichord and was active as a composer and a teacher. He was the best-paid musician at the court, earning more than twice what the Kapellmeister received. In 1764 an Italian musician reported Platti’s death in a letter to Padre Martini, mentioning him in the same breath as Geminiani and Locatelli.

Things weren’t always bright and wonderful in Platti’s career, however: in 1724, just two years after his appointment, his employer died, and his successor disbanded the court orchestra. Platti had the good fortune to have built up a good relationship with the former prince-archbishop's brother, Rudolf Franz Erwein. He was an avid player of the cello, and this inspired Platti to write cello sonatas and compositions with obbligato cello parts, some of which can be heard on this disc. It was thanks to this connection that he was able to spend the next years at Rudolf's court in Wiesentheid. In 1729 the new prince-archbishop of Würzburg re-established the court orchestra, which now contained no fewer than 49 members. Platti returned to Würzburg, and in 1732 he was appointed second violinist and Kammertenor. The appreciation of his employers through the years, his excellent salary and his marriage to Maria Theresia Lambrucker, first soprano in the court chapel, were all good reasons to spend the rest of his life in Würzburg.

A substantial part of Platti's oeuvre must have been lost, such as some vocal works, among them an oratorio, of which only the libretto has been preserved. The largest part of his extant compositions have been come down to us as part of the library of the above-mentioned Rudolf Franz Erwein of Schönborn-Wiesentheid. That is where the numbers in the header refer to. The Prince was not only an avid collector of music, which he acquired during his travels, but he also invited composers to write music for him, such as Antonio Caldara, whose cello sonatas were probably the result of the Prince’s commission. He may also have asked Vivaldi to compose some sonatas for him.

The collection comprises a little over 60 of Platti’s compositions. The present disc includes six trio sonatas in different scorings. One of the notable features is that Platti often composed sonatas for instruments of different range: violin or oboe with cello or bassoon. I don’t know how many pieces have an obbligato part for the bassoon. In the programme recorded by Radio Antiqua only in the Sonata in c minor (WD 695) is the lower part explicitly intended for the bassoon. In the other two sonatas (WD 694 and 687) the bassoon plays a part which was originally scored for the cello. This is entirely legitimate: in the first half of the 18th century, when most chamber music was intended for amateurs, the bassoon was not often played by non-professional players, and therefore cello and bassoon were mostly treated as alternatives.

Almost every sonata on this disc has something which catches the ear. The two slow movements from the Sonata in D (WD 681) are full of Italian pathos; especially nice is the swaying rhythm of the siciliano. The Sonata in c minor (WD 695) attests to the variety within Platti’s trio sonatas. In some episodes the two instruments follow their own path, which pays witness to the composer’s contrapuntal skills. This is alternated with passages in parallel motion. The Sonata in e minor (WD 677) is one of the highlights of this disc. In the first movement the cello opens the proceedings with a solo passage. The second movement is an allabreve in the form of a fugue. It starts with the basso continuo, followed by the cello, and then the violin enters. In the ensuing largo the two instruments largely proceed in parallel motion. The sonata ends with a brilliant presto.

The Sonata in c minor (WD 694) is the only piece in the programme which is in three movements, whereas the others follow the Corellian four-movement model. In the opening allegro the bassoon (originally the cello) has the lead; the violin imitates the phrases of the bassoon. Elsewhere it is the other way around. The Sonata in D (WD 682) is probably one of Platti’s most popular sonatas and has been recorded before. That is understandable, as it is a brilliant piece, with an ingenious interplay between the two instruments. It is a play of give and take, in which both instruments sometimes take the lead. The opening largo offers the performers plenty of opportunities to add ornaments, and they have gratefully accepted that offer. The ensuing allegro includes some daring harmonic progressions. The closing movement, called non tanto presto, is another impressive piece, which includes some brilliant figurations. In the last piece, the Sonata in d minor (WD 687), we have another opportunity to enjoy the playing of the bassoon in an imaginative part, which Platti originally conceived for the cello, and without any doubt with the Prince of Schönborn-Wiesentheid in mind.

We have every reason to be thankful for that aristocratic lover of music. We owe him quite a number of excellent chamber music works. It is a matter of good fortune that his library has remained intact. It includes sonatas by Platti one would not like to miss. I very much hope that Radio Antiqua is willing to record more from his pen. They show here to have a very good feeling for his oeuvre. Some years ago they released their debut recording which I enjoyed very much (review). I concluded: “This disc makes a promising debut and I hope that we will hear more from Radio Antiqua”. The present disc fulfills that wish, and my expectations have been surpassed. This disc is one of the best chamber music recordings I have heard in recent times. More often than not Platti's music is pretty exciting stuff, and that comes off to the full in these outstanding performances by Radio Antiqua. They deserve much praise for their choice of Platti and the way they perform his music fully justifies their choice.

This disc is a real treasure which is up to repeated listening. There is a very good chance it will find its place in my list of recordings of the year in December.

Johan van Veen

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