Notes and Editorial Reviews
PLATTI Cello Concertos: in A; in d; in D. Concerti grossi: in D; in C • Stefano Veggetti (vc, cond); Ens Cordia (period instruments) • BRILLIANT 94722 (63: 23)
As I wrote recently in my review of the cello sonatas by Giovanni Benedetto Platti released on Oehms Classics, the composer was one of a large number of Italians who sought their fortunes in Germany during the 18th century. In his case, he worked for the Schönborn family in Würzburg, one of whom, Count Rudolf Franz Erwein, was musically gifted and apparently quite the cellist himself. This, of course, accounts for the focus that Platti placed upon this instrument, but it also places him among a rather ambitious group of composers and cellists, all of whom blossomed about the middle of the century. This includes Antonio Vivaldi, Andrea Zani, and Luigi Boccherini (albeit somewhat later on), all of whom wrote works of stunning virtuosity and raised the music for the instrument to a high standard.
On this disc, the Schönborn collection has again been mined by cellist Stefano Veggetti and the principal violinist of the Ensemble Cordia from northern Italy, Andrea Rognoni. Here they perform three of the concertos, as well as two wonderfully exotic pieces, Platti’s rearrangement as concerti grossi of a pair of violin sonatas from Archangelo Corelli’s op. 5. There must have been something in the water, for Francesco Geminiani also arranged the same pieces for the same setting about the same time, somewhere around 1725. The temptation would be to compare them, but in truth Platti’s versions are well scored, with a nice rich texture that enhances the thinner lines of Corelli’s originals. Geminiani did much the same, and instead of drawing some sort of comparison, invidious or not, it is best to see them as independent sets, with the composers equally adept at modernizing a popular original. If one wishes to do this, however, I would recommend the Academy of Ancient Music’s recording from 2006 on Harmonia Mundi. Despite the claim that the Platti are world premieres, the entire set can be found performed by the Akademie für Alte Musik in 2008 on the same label.
The real treat is the three cello concertos, all of which demonstrate different approaches, even though all are in three-movement format. The first is quite the tour de force, with scurrying about by both soloist and accompaniment in the rushing first movement and a rhythmically offset stylized dance in the third. My favorite is the second movement, where the cello solo is accompanied at the sixth above in the main theme by the violin, making the phrases sound like smooth parallel double stops. The harmony is song-like and effective, with a rich texture that seems almost more German than Italian. The parallel D-Major Concerto, certainly composed around the same time, features a really long opening exposition, almost a quarter of the total length of the piece. Here the call and response between the orchestral violins and clearly-defined contrasting themes is decidedly galant in style, but Platti confounds his listeners by giving the solo cello material that is different yet again, making this more of a symphony with obbligato cello than a true concerto. The lyrical second movement, however, is almost pure Vivaldi, with a languid line alternating with slow parallel orchestral chords, indicating that Platti was on the cusp of the new style but not yet entirely immersed within it. The only odd fellow is the D-Minor second Concerto, which seems truly to have been written firmly in a Baroque style, even if it has the more modern three-movement format. The real interest here is in the rather quirky final fugue, which has the expositions underscored by a walking bass.
These are all really interesting and worthwhile works, demonstrating that Platti was no stranger to the trends of the day. The works are enhanced by the excellent playing of soloist Veggetti, who handles both the lyrical parts with a singing tone and the sometimes fiendish virtuosity of the bookended movements with ease and grace. The orchestral accompaniment, presumably without formal conductor, lends a nice support to Veggetti, being crisp and clean in their execution. In the concerti grossi paraphrases, they play off against each other in a way that demonstrates the interplay between the two groups, solo and ripieno, but has a hint of Platti’s nicely textured instrumentation that belies their origins as violin sonatas. My only quibble is that the sound quality is not the best. There is a dullness to the entire disc, as if it were recorded through a wad of cotton. This may even out the overtones and ensemble textures, but to my mind it puts a damper on the obviously bright and spirited playing by the group. Platti’s works certainly deserve more brilliance and resonance. If one can put up with this, however, one will find that these are wonderful additions to the early Classical period repertory.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer