REVIEWS:  divine art   dda 25015 Galuppi Piano Sonatas, vol. 3


Galuppi’s keyboard music was brought to the notice of record collectors by a C major Sonata included by Michelangeli in a Decca mono LP recital, and he turned it into a little pearl. Galuppi was also celebrated by Browning, but alas the “Toccata” his poem describes does not actually exist. However, some 90 sonatas do, and they are all being recorded by Peter Seivewright, using a modern piano but with only modest pedalling in slow movements and crisp, clean articulation in Allegros. He is a sensitive artist and obviously enjoys this repertoire, and he communicates this enjoyment to us.

These works appear to be the epitome of simplicity, but in fact they are usually through-composed, so that movements are built, often quite imaginatively and always resourcefully, out of the same basic material. Certain movements stand out, for instance the bouncing Presto second movement of the three-movement Sonata in C minor on the first disc, which is surprisingly like the second movement of the Sonata in G minor which then reuses the same idea for an Allegretto grazioso finale. The sonata which follows (in E major) brings an engaging set of variations for its second movement (of two), and the final sonata of the first volume opens with a delightful Andante e con espressione, the longest movement on the whole disc.

The second volume opens with a winning two-movement Sonata in C, and the works which follow are inventively varied, but in much the same style. When we come to the third volume, we realize that Galuppi is not seeking to break any formal barriers or make harmonic explorations, but applies his ideas within straightforward musical frameworks. Yet the three-movement C major Sonata included here is really very fetching in its simplicity, and the G major and E flat major sonatas are also most appealing. **(*)
(unnamed reviewer)

“Brave Galuppi! That was music! Good alike at grave and gay!” wrote Robert Browning in A Toccata of Galuppi’s. And to judge by these sonatas, the poet’s enthusiasm was well placed. Like most of Galuppi’s 100-odd sonatas, many of them still unpublished, these are late works, probably written between the 1760s and early 1780s. In style they are eclectic, mingling Baroque traits (in, say, the stately opening movement of the D major sonata, or the two-part counterpoint of the F major), suave galanterie and the language of opera buffa, of which Galuppi was the first master.

Most of the movements are binary structures à la Domenico Scarlatti, with occasional hints of sonata-form development. And while there are few harmonic or textural surprises, the music is attractive, elegantly crafted and often melodically memorable, especially in the calm, lyrical arias that open several of the sonatas – the essence of Italianate bel canto recreated in idiomatic keyboard terms.

Playing on a modern concert grand (a fortepiano would surely have been preferable), Peter Seivewright gives pleasure in the soulfully sung slow movements. Faster ones have a certain robust vigour, though subtlety of touch and grace of details are not Seivewright’s strong suits; and too often – the Allegretto grazioso in the B flat sonata is just one case in point – the music cries out for nimbler fingerwork and more delicate, crystalline sonorities. It is tempting to imagine what, say, Murray Perahia or Andràs Schiff might make of these sonatas. But with competition non-existent, anyone who wants to explore some delightful and little-known pieces will have to make do with the serviceable but uninspiring Seivewright. Performance ** Sound ****
Richard Wigmore