Sinfonias & Concerti of GIUSEPPE ANTONIO BRESCIANELLO – Glossa Late Keyboard Sonatas of GIOVANNI BENEDETTO PLATTI – Accent

by | Apr 26, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

GIUSEPPE ANTONIO BRESCIANELLO: Sinfonia in F Major for 2 Violins, Viola, and Basso Continuo; Concerto in G Minor for Violin, Oboe, Strings, and Basso Continuo; Concerto in E Minor for Violin, Strings, and Basso Continuo; Overture in G Minor for 2 Oboes, 2 Violins, Viola, and Basso Continuo; Sinfonia in D Major for 2 Violins, Viola, and Basso Continuo; Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Bassoon, Strings, and Basso Continuo; Chaconne in A Major for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and Basso Continuo – La Cetra Barockorchester Basel / David Plantier and Václav Luks – Glossa GCD 922506, 64:33 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

GIOVANNI BENEDETTO PLATTI: The Late Keyboard Sonatas = Sonata in B-flat Major (126); Sonata in E-flat Major (112); Sonata in C Minor (110); Sonata in A Minor (125); Sonata in F Major (116); Sonata in C Major (107) – Luca Gugliemi, fortepiano and harpsichord – Accent ACC 24228, 69:36 [Distr. by Qualiton] ***½:

Giuseppe Brescianello (1690-1758) and Giovanni Platti (1697-1763) are members of the eighteenth-century musical Diaspora that witnessed young Italian performer-composers fanning out over Europe in search of employment. Both ended up working in Germany, Brescianello in Stuttgart and Platti in Würzburg. As a result, the music of both composers is cosmopolitan, Brescianello showing the influence of German and French styles as well as Italian, while Platti, the more forward-looking of the two, wrote early-Classical sonatas that seem to show the influence of the empfindsam Stil championed by C. P. E. Bach, among other German composers of the period.

Little is known about Brescianello’s early life except that he went from Venice to Munich in 1715 to assume a position as violinist (and/or violist) in the court of the prince elector of Bavaria. The next year found him in the court of Duke Eberhard Ludwig in Stuttgart, where eventually he became Kapellmeister—twice. He lost his position when the court orchestra was disbanded in 1737 because of dire financial problems but was reinstated by Karl Eugen, duke of Württemberg, in 1744. This period between gigs proved to be a window of opportunity for the once-busy Kapellmeister, who then turned to composition, publishing his 12 concerti e sinphonie, Op. 1, in 1738.

The works in this collection show the cosmopolitan nature of the musical styles that Brescianello assimilated in his early years and travels. Having presumably trained with masters of instrumental music in Venice, he shows a clear debt to Vivaldi’s concerti, with their chugging orchestral accompaniments and fluent, virtuoso treatment of solo instruments. The double concertos in G minor and B-flat major allow for elegant interplay between the two instruments, as well, in the case of the Concerto in G Minor, as an especially long and showy violin cadenza. The spare obsessive repeated chords at the beginning of the slow movement of the Concerto in E Minor seem like a page out of Vivaldi’s Primavera Concerto though without the added color of Vivaldi’s tone painting.

Then we come to the Overture in G Minor, written with clear reference to the French musical style, with its love of stately, double-dotted processionals and dances, its delicate interplay of wind and string. Telemann and Bach both contributed their fair share of examples to the genre, and Brescianello’s effort is worthy of mention along with them.

Back to Italy for the origins of Brescianello’s sinfonias, clearly based on the tripartite Italian overture that started life as a curtain-raiser but was by now acquiring a life of its own as a free-standing orchestral piece. The notes to the recording mention Locatelli’s often brilliant Introduttioni theatrali as possible models, but in Brescianello’s Sinfonia in D especially, with its driven outer movements, I hear as much a foretaste of the early German symphonists such as Franz Xaver Richter and Johann Stamitz. This is the more forward-looking side of Brescianello’s art, just as the elegant Chaconne in A celebrates a famous musical form stretching back in history.

There’s variety of form and influence a plenty here, and while Brescianello’s music doesn’t have that spark of genius or mark of individuality that sets it apart for all time, it is work of polish and style, deserving of a place among the music of other Italian and German masters of the era, especially in such stylish performances as La Cetra Barockorchester Basel provide. There is flare to its playing, as well as crisp, commanding virtuosity to the work of the several soloists in the concerti. A fine introduction to the work of a lesser Baroque master.

With the late keyboard music of Giovanni Platti, we clearly enter the pre-Classical era, when musicians such as Bach’s progressive sons plied their trade. Platti was born twelve years after Bach and Handel and outlived Handel by just four years and yet obviously belongs stylistically to the later era. His keyboard sonatas, mostly cast in three movements but with an occasional minuet, are clearly in a nascent sonata-allegro style, the first movements complete with exposition and briefer or longer development sections as the mood struck him. Note writer Alberto Iesué posits the Sonata in C Major as a perfect model of early Classical sonata writing, its first movement a sturdy sonata-allegro, with a clear exposition, repeated, of two classically proportioned themes followed by an equally obvious though hardly probing development section. More telling, perhaps, is the tender, “sentimental” slow movement that suggests Platti’s ties to the emfindsam Stil, of which C. P. E. Bach was the master. I’m reminded very much of that German composer here.

As with Brescianello, little is known about the early years of Padua-born Platti except that like the former, he studied in Venice, probably with some of the leading musicians of the day, before entering the service of the Prince Bishop of Bamberg and Würzberg in 1722.  There, he performed a catholic assortment of musical duties, including rehearsing the court singers; performing on violin, cello, oboe, and harpsichord; and writing much vocal and instrumental music. Platti is sometimes criticized for having turned out too much music in too great haste, and if the numbers associated with the sonatas on this CD are any indication, he seems indeed to have produced reams of keyboard music alone. But most of the works on offer here are carefully and entertainingly written and provide a fascinating glimpse into the duel influences of Italian and German music styles, not to mention an early stage in the development of the Classical keyboard sonata.

Luca Gugliemi plays most of these sonatas on a copy of a 1726 fortepiano by Bartolomeo Cristofori of Florence. The note writer speculates that Platti probably wrote many of his sonatas for pianos like the Cristofori models, given the four-octave range indicated in Platti’s scores and the very expressive nature of the writing, especially in the delicately shaded slow movements, to which a harpsichord couldn’t do justice. Platti certainly comes across well on Gugliemi’s copy of this ancient piano, which sounds like a cross between a Beethoven-era fortepiano and a tangent piano or maybe clavichord, with a light pleasantly twangy sound that does Platti’s intimately-scaled music justice.

Sometimes Gugliemi seems a little too emphatic in the faster music, especially in bridge passages, which he tends to pound out without much dynamic variety. On the other hand, the elegant slow movements are nicely shaded, and the playful rondo finales are allowed to smile as they should. So on balance, these are good, thoughtful performances that could do with just a touch more subtlety here and there. Certainly, as an introduction to an interesting transitional figure, this well-recorded disc is valuable and very much worth a listen.       

— Lee Passarella                                    

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