Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonatas for 3
for Cello, Violin, and Basso Continuo, WD 678; WD 683; WD 689.
Trio Sonata in g; Sonata No. 12
for solo keyboard.
for Violin and Cello
: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in A
Sebastian Hess (vc); Rüdiger Lotter (vn); Florian Birsak (fp)
OEHMS 836 (73:00)
The musical vineyards of the first half of
the 18th century in Germany were filled with Italian composers brought north with the promise of funding and freedom to compose for their patrons without having to fight their way into the fragmented cultural establishments in Italy. One such fellow was Giovanni Benedetto Platti (c.1697-1763), an oboist who was recruited from Venice in 1722 by the Prince-Archbishop of Würzburg, Johann Philipp Franz. This ruler no doubt wished to polish up his musical establishment at court, initially hiring the famed Fortunato Chelleri as Kapellmeister and beefing up the orchestra and vocalists. Unfortunately, this attempt was cut short after only two years when the Prince-Archbishop died and Chelleri moved on to Kassel to a better position. Although most of his fellow musicians left, Platti evidently found life comfortable there, no doubt because it was (and still is) a major wine growing center and he had just married a German singer, Theresia Langprückner, with whom he began an earnest career as a family man. Of course, such a decision needed support, and apparently the Prince-Archbishop’s brother, Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn, from neighboring Wiesentheid offered Platti the necessary patronage, even as he retained his post with the Prince-Archbishop’s musically disinclined successor.
As a composer, Platti is hardly a household name, nor does he appear to have been interested in any sort of international recognition. Very little was published apart from some keyboard and flute sonatas, and the composer seemed content to write music for Prince Rudolf’s favorite instrument, the cello, eventually producing no fewer than 28 concertos and much other music that has been lost in the Würzburg archives until recently. This disc follows a release of cello sonatas performed by baroque cellist Sebastian Hess and released last year on Oehms Classics as the first volume in a Platti series. Here, some of the 21 trio sonatas for violin, solo cello, and continuo are presented, interspersed with two of the ricercatas for the two solo instruments, and a keyboard sonata. No doubt, the performers needed some diversity, perhaps in case potential listeners found the trios a bit static or because they wanted to mix things up a bit. No matter, the disc does give more than a generous sampling of Platti’s compositional style.
All of the works show their baroque roots, which by 1730 were becoming decidedly old fashioned. All are in four movements (alternating slow and fast), with many having titles drawn from the suite, such as Sarabanda, Siciliana, Gavotta, etc. From a musical standpoint, Platti’s style seems to lie somewhere between the baroque and
, with some nice lyrical themes occasionally popping up, but with a penchant for almost interminable sequencing and heavy use of suspensive harmony. For example, in the first trio’s second movement a lovely melody in parallel thirds dissipates into sequences without development, something that a Telemann would have done to reinforce the theme, and in the last movement the modulations are downright awkward, threatening to derail off the normal track until suddenly wrenching the instruments back to the proper key. The fugal finale of the second sonata is based mostly on scales and is not overly complex, and there seems no reason for Platti to have written a contrapuntal gigue in the final movement of the third sonata. The ricercatas are a bit more innovative, with some nice lyrical lines in the first movement of the first one, after which Platti contrasts the two instruments in echo fashion with fast runs up and down the scale. Only in the G-Minor Sonata’s finale does there seem to be a nice interplay between the two instruments. That is not to say that his music is simplistic, far from it. These are not easy works to play, and they require an exacting amount of the performer’s concentration.
About the performance itself, cellist Hess is at the top of his game, eliciting a warm and engaging tone from his instrument, but not dispensing with the need for fireworks when the music demands. Violinist Rüdiger Lotter is equally fine, and the blends of the two instruments, especially in the ricercatas, is even and smooth. The “basso” is performed here by Florian Birsak on a fortepiano, though of course Platti probably would have had a harpsichord and usual continuo strings at his beck and call. The result in the solo keyboard sonata is to give it a liquid tone which brings out the dynamic and registral nuances quite well. Elsewhere, though, it modernizes the work in a way that makes it more homogenous, probably far more so than was originally intended. Still, it is not disturbing, and Birsak’s playing is finely nuanced and elegantly phrased. This disc may not augur a Platti revival, but it does show what smaller courts and castles were doing during this important transitionary time. If one wishes for an accurate picture of how style developed, this will be a nice disc to have; well played and perhaps a good way of displaying the compositional talents of a minor composer.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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