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8.572490 - GALUPPI, B.: Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Napoli)
English 

Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785)
Keyboard Sonatas • 2

 

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.

Galuppi worked first in Florence, where, in 1726, he served as harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola, before returning in 1728 to Venice, where his second opera, Gl’odi delusi dal sangue, a collaboration with Lotti’s pupil Giovanni Battista Pescetti, was staged at the Teatro S. Angelo. Further operas followed over some fifty years, settings of libretti by Zeno and Metastasio and then in fruitful collaborations with Goldoni. In 1740 Galuppi was appointed maestro di musica at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti. The following year he was granted leave of absence for a visit to England, where he spent some eighteen months, supervising eleven productions for the Italian opera at the King’s Theatre, with four works of his own, the last performed after his return to Venice. To the first opera of Lord Middlesex’s new company Handel makes jocular and disparaging reference in a letter from Dublin and of the second, Galuppi’s Penelope, he quotes a certain nobleman: Il faut que je dise avec Harlequin, nôtre Penelôpe n’est qu’une Sallôpe. Nevertheless Galuppi established a lasting reputation in England, where Walsh later published two sets of his keyboard sonatas, in 1756 and 1759. Dr Burney reflects something of this in his journal of 1770, in which he recounts a visit to Galuppi in Venice and the latter’s definition of music, which should consist of ‘vaghessa, chiarezza and buona madulazione’ (sic). He describes Galuppi as ‘a good harpsichord player’ and refers also to his clavichord, an instrument to which a number of the sonatas are well suited. In Venice in 1748 Galuppi had been appointed vice maestro di cappella at St Mark’s and in 1762 became maestro di cappella, with the additional position of maestro di coro at the Ospedale degli Incurabili. From 1765 to 1768 he served at the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, where he was court composer and director of music for the Italian court opera. In Venice once more he took up his former positions, still composing for the theatre, but increasingly providing oratorios and other sacred music for the Ospedale degli Incurabili. He died in January 1785.

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 B flat major, Illy 14, is in three movements, the first an Andantino with an excursion into the minor that seems to foreshadow Mozart. It is followed by an ebullient Scarlattian Allegro assai in 3/4, leading to a final dramatic Giga. The Sonata in D minor, Illy 2, is one of the sonatas included in Thomas Walsh’s Op. 2 set of six Galuppi sonatas. The first of the two movements, marked, like the second, Allegro, suggests an earlier style of writing, and is capped by a Giga in 12/8. The Sonata in C minor, Illy 34, opens with an improvisatory introduction, with passages of quasi-recitative. The second of the three movements moves again into the world of Scarlatti and the sonata ends with an Allegro assai in triple time with characteristic opening figuration.

The Sonata in C major, Illy 27, opens with an Andante, its melody presented in the right hand against an Alberti accompaniment. This leads to an Allegro in 3/8 with the vigour of Scarlatti. The sonata ends with an Allegro assai, continuing in the same mood. The Sonata in E flat major, Illy 24, starts with a movement marked Cantabile, a gentle Italianate aria, over a left-hand accompaniment. There follows an Allegro moderato, appropriately livelier than its tempo indication might suggest, and a final Allegro in 3/8. The Sonata in D minor, Illy 56, preserved in a Venice manuscript, is in two movements, the first a melancholy operatic Andantino and the second a contrasting and spirited Presto. The final work included here is the Sonata in D major, Illy 1, included in Thomas Walsh’s publication of 1759. The first of the three movements follows the pattern of a right-hand melody, offered over an unobtrusive accompaniment from the left hand. The second movement bursts in with characteristic élan and the sonata ends with a brilliant set of increasingly elaborate variations.


Keith Anderson


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