Notes and Editorial Reviews
"If you were to peruse the section on Italian Baroque keyboard music in Manfred Bukofzer’s monumental Music in the Baroque Era (Norton, 1947), you’d be left with the impression that not much happened after Frescobaldi. Sure, Bukofzer mentions the keyboard compositions of Domenico Scarlatti, Pasquini, and a half-dozen others, but clearly the inference is that keyboard music was far down the list of priorities for most Italian composers. Performers and particularly the smaller European labels know differently; in recent years they’ve been quietly exploring the uncharted waters of 18th-century Italian keyboard literature, in the process unearthing a wealth of neglected but worthy material. A recent example is the excellent CD of the
harpsichord music of Carlo Ignacio Monza (1710–39) on the Deux-Elles label, reviewed by yours truly in Fanfare 33:5. Or consider the several outstanding recordings of the music of Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697–1763) that have appeared in the pages of Fanfare, most recently in 35:1.
Giovanni Battista Pescetti (1704–66) came from the same Venetian milieu as Legrenzi, Vivaldi, Platti, and Galuppi; the latter was in fact Pescetti’s classmate and collaborator in Venice. In 1737 Pescetti moved to London, where he took over the directorship of the King’s Theatre from Porpora (not Covent Garden, as stated in the liner notes). Thus, Pescetti was for a time a direct competitor to Handel, until the latter abandoned Italian opera in favor of oratorios. Naturally for any musician active in London at the time, Pescetti’s keyboard music owes a great deal to Handel, although there is nary a trace of the French element that permeates Handel’s music. The nine sonatas recorded here, all cast in a traditional three- or four-movement format, are thoroughly Italian in style, although there are indications that Pescetti was influenced by German keyboard music as well. Pescetti alternates between simple melody-with-bass, in the style of a Handelian allemande or gavotte, and more complex textures, as in the fugal opening of the A tempo giusto of Sonata 3, although he does not follow through with an unadulterated fugue à la Bach. Elsewhere, Pescetti is fond of introducing the opening theme(s) of a movement in imitative fashion, which lends a degree of interest to otherwise mediocre material. Much of the music is written in the grand style of Handel—the best example being the eight-minute Minuet of Sonata 1, which is a theme-and-variations in the spirit of Handel’s variations on “The Harmonious Blacksmith.”
Harpsichordist Filippo Emanuele Ravizza is an accomplished, expressive player whose keyboard work on these CDs leaves little to be desired. He knows how to underscore the rhetorical aspect of the music—about as close as Pescetti comes to sounding “French”—by means of subtle modifications of accent and rubato. Yet there is always forward motion and a sense of excitement; never does the music sound labored or meandering. Ravizza has an excellent Taskin copy at his disposal, but like so many recent harpsichord CDs, it’s been recorded far too close up. I don’t get a sense of the instrument existing in a real acoustic space. Full notes and documentation make this set—from what I can tell, the first complete recording of the Sonate per gravicembalo—an essential acquisition for fans of Italian harpsichord music."
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
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