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8.572672 - GALUPPI, B.: Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Napoli)

Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785)
Keyboard Sonatas • 3


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 D minor has a first and fourth movement listed as Illy 66, the first an aria and the final movement with the brilliance of Scarlatti. The second movement, listed as Illy 73, is followed by a Siciliano, listed as another isolated movement, Illy 74. The following Allegro in C major is the second movement of a two-movement sonata listed as Illy 30, where an additional movement is included. It is the first sonata included in Walsh’s Op 1 edition. The two-movement Sonata in C minor, Illy 38, is the third of the 1781 set of six sonatas, Passatempo al cembalo. The first movement, with its introductory arpeggio, increases in intensity as it progresses. The triple metre Allegretto offers a contrast of mood.

The first sonata of Passatempo al cembalo, the Sonata in F major, Illy 36, has a gentle opening movement, marked Andantino, e con espressione, its poignantly operatic melody in the right hand. The second of the three movements, marked Allegro assai, is in energetic contrast, its right-hand melody accompanied by an Alberti bass, a favourite device. This leads to a final Allegro. The Sonata in B flat major, Illy 23, has an opening Andantino, with its theme, in dotted rhythm, in the upper part, as so often. This leads to a livelier Allegro moderato and a final Andante spiritoso which, as in the preceding movements, finds a place for dotted rhythms.

The first movement of the Sonata in A minor included here, a lilting Siciliana is not listed in Hedda Illy’s thematic index, which includes a vigorous Scarlattian second movement Allegro as Illy 68. The Sonata in F major, Illy 50, is included as the fifth sonata in Walsh’s Op 1 edition. The first of its two movements, a Largo, suggests a tender operatic aria, and the second, marked Allegro, provides the necessary contrast of mood. The Sonata in A minor, Illy 43, included as the third of Walsh’s Op 1 collection, offers a similar pair of contrasting movements, the first in a mood of gentle melancholy, dispelled by the following Allegro.

The last of the sonatas included here, the Sonata in E major, Illy 41, starts with a call to attention, leading to a right-hand melody with an Alberti bass accompaniment. There follows a Larghetto theme with six variations, including a fourth in the minor, leading to running semiquaver figuration and a variation of final brilliance, before the return of the theme in conclusion.

Keith Anderson

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