Luca Guglielmi

Baldassarre Galuppi: Sonatas for Keyboard Instruments

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Before listeners knew the names of any other pre-Classical composer of keyboard music, they knew that of Baldassarre Galuppi thanks to Robert Browning's metrically daring poem "A Toccata of Galuppi's" ("Was a lady such a lady, cheeks so round and lips so red/On her neck the small face buoyant, like a bell-flower on its bed/O'er the breast's superb abundance where a man might base his head?"). With the thorough exploration of the output of Scarlatti, Galuppi's star dimmed somewhat. His style did not have the close focus of Scarlatti's, but Italian keyboardist Luca Guglielmi makes a virtue of that in this well-recorded Belgian release. The nine short Galuppi sonatas recorded here were composed between the mid-1750s and 1781 (the latest is the Sonata in C minor, Sonata III, "Passatiempo al Cembalo," which is a rather serious work despite its subtitle). They have from one to three movements, and they're stylistically all over the 18th century map. Some resemble Scarlatti, some have simpler textures with variants of what would later be called the Alberti bass, and the final Sonata in C major, an undated piece from a Venetian archive, has a limpid texture suggesting that Mozart was the model (although it could of course have been one of Mozart's own exemplars). There isn't much of an overarching personality. Guglielmi, however, uses this variety to highlight some terrific keyboard instruments of the era. There are five in all, each a copy of an 18th century original: two harpsichords, a 1726 fortepiano by the instrument's original inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori, a clavichord, and a small organ. All are intriguing, and the shifts from one to another make the program extremely colorful in themselves. The clavichord is an odd choice for Italian music and is not fully buttressed by the evidence discussed in the booklet essay (in English, French, German, and Italian), but Guglielmi is certainly correct to stress the basic interchangeability of instruments in this straightforward, basically commercial music. The fortepiano comes in only for the presumably late Sonata in C major and could even have been profitably deployed in one of the earlier pieces. All the music is lively, and there are only a few real slow movements. Recommended especially for those interested in the performance of keyboard music of the time.

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