Notes and Editorial Reviews
Late Keyboard Sonatas:
in B?; in E?; in c; in a; in F; in C
Luca Guglielmi (fp, hpd)
ACCENT 24228 (69:36)
PIANO E FORTE
Maria Cristina Kiehr (sop); Edoardo Torbianelli (fp); Chiara Bianchini (vl); Marc Hantaï (fl); Rebeka Rusò (vdg); Daniele Caminiti (archlute)
GLOSSA 922504 (78:51
Text and Translation)
Sonata No. 4 in e.
Sonata No. 7 in d.
Riposo di Clori; Serenata ad Irene.
Sonata No. 8 in e:
Sonata No. 1 in g. Sonata No. 3 in F:
Andante ma non presto.
The common thread in these two new releases is the
gravicembalo col piano e forte
, an invention of the Florentine Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1732). Every so often a remarkable individual such as Cristofori appears on the scene to change the course of music history. Other craftsmen who greatly affected Western music are Nicoló Amati and Gaspar da Salo with their perfected
violino da braccio
, or Bluhmel and Stölzel, who invented the piston valve that revolutionized brass instruments. Often the inventor and his creation are not recognized until many years after the fact, but not in the case of Cristofori—he was celebrated during his lifetime as a genius. In retrospect, what he did was really rather simple: take the standard single-manual Italian harpsichord of the day as the starting point and fit it with an ingenious hammer-plus-escapement action. In the process Cristofori created the prototype and precursor of the modern grand piano.
Like any other academic field, music history is plagued with its share of revisionism; until fairly recently it was common to read that Cristofori’s pianoforte was a flawed instrument, valuable only in the sense that it paved the way for later, more “perfected” models by Walther, Graf, Broadwood, Erard, and Steinway. The present two CDs should dispel any such notion. The instruments used (all copies, since only three originals of Cristofori remain) are as sonorous, fluid, and expressive—within the framework of the music—as any Viennese fortepiano, or indeed any modern piano.
The Glossa CD is a potpourri of works composed in and around Cristofori’s time. Only the sonatas of Lodovico Giustini di Pistoia (1685–1743) can claim a direct connection to the pianoforte, since the composer flourished in Florence during the period when Cristofori was active. Martino Bitti (1660–1743) and Francesco Barsanti (1690–1772) were minor composers who spent their adult years in London; both published collections of flute music in that city during the first half of the century. Francesco Maria Veracini (1690–1768) led a turbulent and peripatetic life; he was active in Florence, Venice, London, and Dresden, and returned to Florence in 1750, where he died. He wrote mostly violin music and probably didn’t take much notice of the keyboard. The Neapolitan Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) is noted as a composer of operas and sacred music; seven short ariettas for voice and basso continuo are included here. Alessandro Marcello (1669–1747) was a Venetian poet, philosopher, and dilettante musician who is best remembered for his sole oboe concerto. His dramatic cantatas
Riposo di Clori
Serenata ad Irene
are the most extended vocal works on the program.
The Cristofori fortepiano used on the Glossa CD, a copy built in 2003 by Denzil Wraight, has a surprisingly rich, creamy sound in the upper register. You could almost mistake it for a modern piano, if it weren’t for the somewhat reedy, harpsichord-like bass. The pianoforte on the Accent CD, on the other hand, has a slightly brighter, thinner sound in the treble that betrays its harpsichord heritage. The performers on the Glossa CD are all faculty members of the famed Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, Europe’s preeminent conservatory for early music. As befits the Schola’s well-deserved reputation, the performances are technically accomplished and at times inspiring. Maria Cristina Kiehr brings her radiant voice and insightful interpretation to the proceedings—a special treat. Full text, translations, and background on the Cristofori pianoforte are provided. Recommended.
The music of the enigmatic Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697–1763) continues to fascinate. I reviewed the second volume of the complete sonatas recorded by harpsichordist Filippo Emanuele Ravizza in
33:3; that disc was marred by somewhat boxy sound. Any connection between Platti, who spent almost his entire adult life in the service of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, and the Cristofori pianoforte is purely coincidental. This is not to say that Platti never played one, it’s just that his music was unquestionably written for harpsichord.
But does that mean it shouldn’t be played on a Cristofori pianoforte? In this case, being doctrinaire about the matter is as counterproductive as insisting that Bach should not be played on modern piano. The combination of Luca Gugliemi’s energetic, nuance-rich playing with the refined sound of Kerstin Schwarz’s copy is exactly what this music needs. Platti’s music can be all over the map at times, but thanks to the dynamic control at his disposal, Gugliemi is able to make sense of Platti’s verbosity.
Guglielmi plays the C-Minor and A-Minor sonatas on harpsichord, an excellent-sounding Italian copy also by Kerstin Schwarz. As good as this instrument is, I wish that the warmer-sounding, less aggressive pianoforte had been used throughout. I suppose this underscores just how well Platti’s music works on Cristofori’s instrument. Highest recommendation—certain to be one of the outstanding keyboard releases of 2011.
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
Works on This Recording
Sonata for keyboard No. 11 in C minor by Giovanni Benedetto Platti
Luca Guglielmi (Harpsichord)
Venue: Atelier Chinnery-Schwarz, Vicchio, Flore
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs.
Sonata for keyboard No. 13 in F major by Giovanni Benedetto Platti
Luca Guglielmi (Piano)
Venue: Atelier Chinnery-Schwarz, Vicchio, Flore
Length: 3 Minutes 21 Secs.
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