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8.572263 - GALUPPI, B.: Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1 (Napoli)
English 

Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785)
Keyboard Sonatas • 1

 

Known as Il Buranello, from Burano, his place of birth, Baldassare Galuppi played a leading part in the development of opera buffa, although his name may now be more familiar to readers of Robert Browning’s poem A Toccata of Galuppi’s, an elegy for the vanished heyday of Venice: Here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings: / What they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were the kings?. For Browning all that was left was ‘dust and ashes’. Galuppi’s first music lessons were with his father, a barber and a violinist in a neighbouring theatre. Galuppi dared to write his first opera, La fede nell’inconstanza (Faith in Inconstancy), a pastoral fable, at the age of sixteen and it was staged in 1722 in Chioggia and Vicenza. Its predictable failure led him to serious study and to lessons in composition and harpsichord with Antonio Lotti, first organist at St Mark’s in Venice and some years later to reach the position of primo maestro di cappella. Lotti, having spent a few years in Dresden, had by this time retired from the composition of opera. He nevertheless held a leading position in the music of Venice, with other pupils including Benedetto Marcello, Michelangelo Gasparini and perhaps Hasse.

Known as Il Buranello, from Burano, his place of birth, Baldassare Galuppi played a leading part in the development of opera buffa, although his name may now be more familiar to readers of Robert Browning’s poem A Toccata of Galuppi’s, an elegy for the vanished heyday of Venice: Here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings: / What they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were the kings?. For Browning all that was left was ‘dust and ashes’. Galuppi’s first music lessons were with his father, a barber and a violinist in a neighbouring theatre. Galuppi dared to write his first opera, La fede nell’inconstanza (Faith in Inconstancy), a pastoral fable, at the age of sixteen and it was staged in 1722 in Chioggia and Vicenza. Its predictable failure led him to serious study and to lessons in composition and harpsichord with Antonio Lotti, first organist at St Mark’s in Venice and some years later to reach the position of primo maestro di cappella. Lotti, having spent a few years in Dresden, had by this time retired from the composition of opera. He nevertheless held a leading position in the music of Venice, with other pupils including Benedetto Marcello, Michelangelo Gasparini and perhaps Hasse.

As a keyboard-player Galuppi was much admired. His many keyboard sonatas, however, remained largely unpublished, although many of them found their way round Europe in manuscript copies, with over a hundred listed in the thematic catalogue of Hedda Illy and 130 sonatas, toccatas and divertimenti mentioned in more recent publications. The sonatas published in his lifetime include the two sets of six sonatas, Op. 1 and Op. 2, issued by Walsh in London in 1756 and 1759 respectively. A final set of six sonatas, Passatempo al Cembalo (Pastime at the Harpsichord), was written in 1781 towards the end of Galuppi’s long life, dedicated to the future Paul I of Russia on the occasion of his incognito visit to Venice, but not published. The thematic catalogue by Hedda Illy does not attempt to put the sonatas in any chronological order. The first 28 of the catalogue follow Fausto Torrefranca’s listing of 1909, with Nos. 29 to 32 following the listing of Charles van den Borren of 1923. Illy records Nos. 36 to 41, the sonatas of the Passatempo al Cembalo, as having been mentioned by Ezra Pound’s mistress, the American violinist Olga Rudge, in an Accademia Chigiana publication of 1948. In Walsh’s edition the six sonatas of Op. 2 correspond with Nos. 1 to 6 of Hedda Illy’s listing, and the six of Op. 1 to Nos. 30, 11, 43, 45, 50 and 19. The sonatas as we have them are, however, subject to misattributions, with movements sometimes duplicated, transposed or misplaced.

The Sonata in F major, Illy 28, is in three movements, the first a gently extended Andante of the expected grace and charm, a reflection of the Italian gift for singing melody. The second movement, marked Allegretto, makes a distinct contrast and is followed by an Allegro molto in 6/8 of Scarlattian bravura. It is followed here by the Sonata in F minor, Illy 9, again in three movements, the first of which is marked Andante spiritoso, its mood enlivened in the following Allegretto in 3/8. The sonata ends with a Presto in 6/8.

The Sonata in C minor, Illy 18, starts with an Andantino with the dotted rhythm of a French Overture, listed by Illy as a work in four movements, the form in which it appears in some manuscripts. The second movement, which is given here as an Allegro, follows the edition by Edith Woodcock, and is included by Walsh in Op. 2, No. 4 as an Andante coupled with a Capriccio, which it follows. The Sonata in C major, Illy 57, has an insistent opening motif in the first movement Allegro. This is followed by an Italianate F major Andantino, the change of key not always usual in Galuppi’s sonatas, where movements are often in the same key. The sonata ends with a 3/8 Presto.

The Sonata in B flat major, Illy 32, is in two movements, the first marked Andantino, with the melodic interest, as usual, in the right hand, quickening in interest as it proceeds. The second movement, marked Presto, has something of Scarlatti about it, with its élan, and is interrupted by occasional melancholy moments of brief reflection. The Sonata in G major, Illy 53, is also in two movements, the first a delicate Andantino, followed by an ebullient Allegro assai.

The Sonata in D major, Illy 45, is catalogued by Hedda Illy as in E major and follows the standard slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of the Italian sonata of the late Baroque. It is included as the fourth sonata of Walsh’s Op. 1 set of 1756, with the third movement Largo e majestoso marked Spiritoso e staccato. The second movement has elements of modest display, followed by the stately dotted rhythms of the slow movement, the whole work capped by a dashing final Giga. In a single movement, the Sonata in C major, Illy 98, provides a brilliant conclusion, from which the spirit of Scarlatti is never far away.


Keith Anderson


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