Vladimir Radchenkov

Galuppi: Seven Harpsichord Sonatas

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For Venetian master Baldassare Galuppi, the composition of keyboard sonatas -- over 100 of them -- was a mid-career development; while the style of many sonatas suggests a date of the 1730s, not one is datable prior to 1756, the first instance in which Galuppi's keyboard was published. By that time, Galuppi was already one of the most famous composers of opera in Europe and is regarded in retrospect as the father of Italian opera buffa, largely through his collaborations with satirist Carlo Goldoni. In 1765, he traveled to Russia at the request of Catherine the Great and stayed nearly three years as an unofficial emissary from the Republic of Venice. This would prove one of the most profitable of his voyages abroad, and managed to enhance his reputation even at home; however, it would prove his last such sojourn. Upon his return, he would mainly concentrate on his position as composer-in-residence at St. Mark's Cathedral in the two decades left to him. While he managed to bow out of the business of opera by the early 1770s, Galuppi continued to write keyboard sonatas until the end of his days. Although the harpsichord was not his primary instrument -- that seems to have been the organ -- he is reputed to have been a good player, and his sonatas seem well worth reviving even as they have been criticized for being of marginal value among some experts in the field.

In recording Im Lab's Galuppi: Seven Harpsichord Sonatas, Russian harpsichordist Vladimir Radchenkov focuses on sonatas we must assume were ones Galuppi played in Russia for Catherine the Great and so pleased her. Just how this would be, Radchenkov isn't clear in his notes, and that is a pity, although one also assumes he is working with sonatas primarily found in Russian sources. This would not be at all unusual, as manuscript sources on Galuppi's keyboard music can be found all over Europe. While Im Lab's sound is a little on the thin side, Radchenkov certainly plays the music well, and it's a delight; anyone who enjoys Domenico Scarlatti's music should get something out of this. Also, in his booklet note, Radchenkov makes an effective case that Galuppi's keyboard style did undergo a transformation to timelier idiom during his stay in Russia, which definitely counters what Dale E. Monson states on the matter in his article on Galuppi in Grove's. No matter what you might think about Galuppi's operas or oratorios, his instrumental music is always interesting, and Im Lab's Galuppi: Seven Harpsichord Sonatas is a worthy entry in the effort to restore this much maligned eighteenth century figure to some measure of prominence.

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