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Julian Haylock
International Record Review, July 2011

Naxos has enriched the catalogue with numerous complete cycles of neglected repertoire. One of its latest ventures is a series featuring the complete keyboard sonatas (many of them unpublished) by the Italian pre-Classicist Baldasare Galuppi (1706–85), stylishly played by Mateo Napoli on a modern Steinway Model ‘D’ grand. Galuppi provides a vital link between the rococo patternings of Domenico Scarlatti and the young Mozart’s uncluttered clarity. Napoli creates the ideal sound-world, pedalling with commendable subtlety in the faster movements and casting an attractive, romantic halo over the opening Andante spititoso of the F minor Sonata, Illy 9. Echo effects and dynamic shadings are handled with enviable poise, even if Galuppi’s natural smiling exhuberance feels a shade muted here.

J Scott Morrison, May 2011

If you like the keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti, Padre Antonio Soler or CPE Bach, you’ll love this disc of sonatas by Baldassarre Galuppi. (Btw, there is a marvelous new recording of CPE Bach sonatas by pianist Danny Driver which I haven’t reviewed yet but will eventually get around to: C.P.E. Bach: Keyboard Sonatas). I’m not that familiar with Galuppi’s output although I did fall in love with a DVD of one of his operas, ‘La Diavolessa’ Baldassare Galuppi: La Diavolessa. I first heard some of his music in recordings by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli who frequently played a Sonata in C Michelangeli Plays Beethoven or Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli I: Great Pianists of the 20th Century, Vol. 68, a work I still adore. And I find that this disc of eight other Galuppi sonatas does not disappoint. In fact, I find that I am struck anew by the beauty of Galuppi’s style. Galuppi was born on Burano (an island exurb of Venice; hence he was nicknamed ‘Il Buranello’) in 1706 and died in 1785. He was mostly noted for his operas. His music falls in that era that just followed the Baroque and preceded the Classical, an era sometimes called Rococo or Galante. There is some hint of polyphony and baroque ornamentation but there is also a great dependence of lyrical melody and the beginnings of what in Germany came to be called ‘Empfindung’ (‘Expression’, ‘feeling’), a wonderful combination of gestures. From Grove’s Dictionary: ‘The European vogue for Italian keyboard sonatas (almost all opera composers wrote them) among an amateur audience rested in their undemanding technical requirements and ingratiating style. Galuppi’s own virtuosity as a keyboard player is not the focus.’

This disc is labeled Volume I, so one can hope there will be many more to follow. Grove’s lists ‘c. 130 [keyboard] sonatas, toccatas, divertimentos, lessons etc.’ so one can imagine there will be many more volumes to come. Pianist Matteo Napoli has a beautiful touch and a lovely lyrical legato which perfectly matches the requirements of this music.

Given this disc’s budget pricing, I strongly advise those who don’t know Galuppi’s charming music to give it a try.

MusicWeb International, April 2011

Though Baldassare Galuppi is rightly famed for his huge contribution to opera buffa, he was also a prolific and popular composer of keyboard music, particularly sonatas. This is the first Naxos CD devoted to Galuppi’s music, and volume 1 of his keyboard sonatas. Volume 2 has not yet been released on CD, but is available as a download.

One immediate question about this recording—major or minor, depending on individual sensitivities—is the choice of a modern pianoforte (Steinway D). There will doubtless be many who feel that Galuppi’s sonatas belong on a period instrument—whether harpsichord or fortepiano. The sonorities, slender textures and delicate ornamentations of his alternately late-Baroque and forward-looking pre-Galant music are sometimes partially lost in the lush, deep sound of Napoli’s piano. Nevertheless, within these self-imposed limitations, Napoli’s performance here is creditable—plenty of sensitivity, no misplaced showmanship.

There is no question, however, about Galuppi’s masterly, mellifluous musicianship. Sonata after sonata is packed with beautiful melody and fluent invention, and it comes as no surprise that it was not only his opera music that was in great demand. But though Galuppi was himself a keyboard virtuoso, this is idiomatic music written with an eye on, or an ear to, the amateur player—it is varied, beautiful and rewarding, without being technically overwhelming.

Often the music is quite reminiscent of Domenico Scarlatti—the outer movements of the superbly imaginative Sonata in D, for example (incidentally incorrectly catalogued by Hedda Illy in E), or the ebullient two-and-a-half minute, one-movement Sonata in C, Illy 98. There are also reverberations of C.P.E. Bach, as in the refined Sonata in F and the thoughtful Sonata in F minor, and even of J.S. Bach, as in the Sonata in G.

But Galuppi is an original, without doubt, and Napoli’s performance makes this altogether a good choice for connoisseurs of 18th century keyboard music, particularly those for whom the idiosyncratic colour of the harpsichord or fortepiano holds little attraction.

Sound quality is generally high…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

The lavish funeral staged in Venice to honour their most famous composer was proof of the status enjoyed by Baldassare Galuppi. More than one hundred operas, both comic and serious, had made him an extremely wealthy man in musical circles. Working in opera he had travelled much through Europe, spending some years in England and Russia. He was also active in church music, his compositions in Russia often quoted as being the basis for music in the Orthodox Church. He also composed for orchestra and created a catalogue of sonatas for many differing solo instruments. Somehow crowded into this busy life, he is reported as having been an outstanding keyboard player, and as theatre director was to adapt works of others to meet local tastes. He died in 1785, the year preceding his eightieth birthday, and had composed through to the last few weeks of his life. This is the first volume of his known keyboard sonatas—his travels placing his manuscripts in libraries dotted around Europe—and forms part of around 130 works thus far discovered. In content they owe much to the bravura of Domenico Scarlatti, though he was a composer with a wealth of melody. Turn to track 9, the opening movement of a C major sonata, to sample the brilliance of writing, the following Andantino having a ‘catchy’ tune, with a dancing gait for the final Presto. Also coming from Italy, Matteo Napoli has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a concert pianist. His performances are scrupulously clean in articulation.

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