Notes and Editorial Reviews
Oboe Sonatas: in g; in c; in c; in G. Cello Sonatas: in d; in g
BRILLIANT 94007 (60:27)
Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697–1763) is one of a multitude of now largely obscure composers of the Italian Baroque being fitfully rediscovered; there are now about 20 CDs of his music, mostly chamber and keyboard works, in print. He is distinguished from many of the others, however, in that the quality of his music is far above the norm. Previous reviews of CDs devoted to Platti’s compositions, by
Christopher Brodersen (
33:6 and 33:3), Scott Noriega (33:5), Ron Salemi (32: 4), George Chien (32:3), J. F. Weber (31:6, who also mentions several other Platti discs), and Brian Robins (24:6), have almost all uniformly praised their superior craftsmanship. As all of these reviews contain considerable information of interest and value, but with surprisingly little overlap, I will unashamedly plagiarize from their labors in providing a concise summary here.
The son of a violinist of the Chapel at San Marco, Platti was born about 1697 (some sources say 1692) in or near Padua. His early musical training was in Venice, where he was a pupil of Vivaldi’s employer Francesco Gasparini. In 1722 he left Siena (where he met Bartolomeo Christofori) for employment as an oboist with the newly elected prince-bishop of Würzburg, Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn. However, it was the prince’s brother, Count Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn (a devoted amateur cellist), who was Platti’s major patron. The count protected him when the court’s musical establishment was disbanded on the bishop’s death in 1724; found him new employment (including teaching and composition) with a renewed court establishment in 1729 when yet another brother, Count Friedrich Karl von Schönborn, was elected prince-bishop; and assembled the major surviving collection of Platti’s manuscripts and few published works. (There were seven Schönborn brothers in all; four became bishops of Bamberg, Konstanz, Speyer, and Worms.) In 1723 Platti married a court singer named Theresia Lambruckerin (d. 1753), by whom he sired 10 children. Outliving the other Schönborn brothers, he remained in Würzburg until his death on January 11, 1763. The composer’s likeness is preserved in one of the famed New Rezidenz palace frescos painted by Giovanni Tiepolo between 1750 and 1753.
As an instrumental performer—he was also accounted a fine singer—Platti also excelled on the flute, violin, cello, and harpsichord, and much of his surviving oeuvre (about 120 pieces) is for chamber ensembles and keyboard (most of his known vocal compositions were destroyed in World War II bombing raids). The works on this album all feature the oboe or cello, and were presumably written for the use of Platti himself and Count Rudolf. The style is a felicitous blend of Italian and German elements, with the flowing melodic line and four-movement concerto style of the former melded with the more rigorous thematic development (including use of imitative counterpoint) and greater harmonic density of the latter.
Regarding the quality of these pieces, I am more than happy here not only to meet the consensus of my
colleagues, but to raise it one better. My previous exposure to Platti, a Mondo Musica CD of the op. 3 sonatas for flute and harpsichord (performed there instead on oboe) did not prepare me for this auditory feast. Simply put, this is some of the finest Baroque chamber music, and one of the most stunningly beautiful performances of the same, ever to cross the laser beam in my stereo system; I kept replaying this CD over and over for the sheer pleasure of hearing it. The five-member Ensemble Cordia, consisting of Alfredo Bernardini (oboe), Stefano Veggetti (cello), Alberto Grazzi (bassoon), Franziska Romaner (cello for the basso continuo), and Anna Fontana (harpsichord), is absolutely dazzling, both technically and interpretively; seldom have I heard Baroque instrumental playing so heartfelt and impassioned. The recorded sound is rich and warm, with wind and string instruments to the fore and the harpsichord somewhat further back. Only the booklet notes by cellist Veggetti, which include a pointless fanciful imaginative conversation between Platti and Count Rudolf, plus a gratuitous insult of the Catholic Church, are a minor drawback. I had not previously anticipated the possibility of a Baroque music disc making it onto a personal Want List, but this is a serious candidate for 2011. It’s that good, and at Brilliant Classics’ bargain price it’s an absolute steal. Don’t miss out on this incredible musical treat.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title