PLATTI: Six Trio Sonatas for Violin, Violoncello and Continuo – Armonioso – multichannel SACD (and 2+2+2) MD&G 903 1978-6, 64:40 (12/2/16) ****:
(Francesco Cerrato; violin/ Stefano Cerrato; violoncello/ Marco Demaria; cello/ Michele Barchi; harpsichord/ Daniele Ferretti; organ)
Late Baroque trio sonatas from the music library of the Counts of Schonbrun-Wiesenheit.
By the 1730s, the language of the Italian Baroque was spoken throughout Europe. The superabundance of learned Italian-trained musicians and composers had spread out in search of patronage in courts of German-speaking lands. The most enterprising, such as Handel and Geminiani, set up shop in London, where the prosperous middle-class was learning to sit quietly through concerts. Scarlatti was on his way to Spain with the Infanta and soon to publish his hybrid Hispano-Italian masterpieces known as the essercizi. Increasingly, Power sought to dress itself in refinement, elegance, and lavish adornments.
Even a relatively small court such as that in Wurzburg, owned by the family of Schonborn counts, required a resident composer/musician to certify its cultural status. The one who created the works under review here, Giovanni Benedetto Platti, turned up to occupy this position in 1722 and spent the rest of his life as a successful and well-paid employee of the court. Platti arrived by way of Venice, where he played with Vivaldi at San Marco. He doubtlessly would have been acquainted with the epoch-making Corelli publications, which set the standard for instrumental music. Yet by this time, the serious art of the late Baroque was feeling the influence of a new style, later known as the Gallant, that favored a more sentimental lyricism. Platti shows a modest accommodation to this new sensibility, but remains a recognizable master of the Corellian trio sonata form.
What is interesting about these six trio sonatas beautifully played on period instruments (at A’=415 Hz pitch) by Armoniosa, an Italian ensemble founded in 2012, is that they feature the cello as a partner to the violin, rather than the typical two-violin melody voices. The fantastic Super Audio sound achieves a clear separation of all the instruments with perhaps a slight bias towards the cello, which is flattered throughout. The continuo alternates between harpsichord and an especially attractive chamber organ.
The trio sonatas are in four movements with one exception. The usual slow-fast-slow-fast prevails. The Largos exude serenity with perhaps a bit too much honey on the bread in a few places. The fugati would get high marks in a class on Corellian counterpoint. There is no sense of routine in the playing; The ensemble shows great attentiveness to nuances of the style. There is just about enough variety in the recording, although one would gladly have welcomed a diversionary oboe or transverse flute.
All in all, these are very fine performances which expand our knowledge and appreciation of the Italian Baroque during a fertile period of transition. MD&G has once again shown why they are among the best in delivering unadulterated sonic experiences with great depth and precision.
TrackList: Sonata in G minor; Sonata in B flat major; Sonata in E minor; Sonata in D major; Sonata in C minor; Sonata in A major