Over the years, there have been occasional releases of keyboard sonatas and concertos by precursors and contemporaries of Mozart, including a smattering of the sonatas composed by Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785). Galuppi is another of those figures whose contemporary reputation was far-reaching but in the intervening centuries his name has been relegated to the darker recesses of music history. Considered by some to be the father of comic opera, Galuppi’s music has been in and out of the catalogs over the years and has also been championed by a number of performers, including conductor Diego Fasolis who recording of Galuppi’s comic masterpiece Il mondo alla roversa was relased by Chandos in 2001. But by and large Galuppi’s music – be it vocal or instrumental – has failed to gain a secure foothold in the active repertoire.
Be it right or wrong one generally succumbs to the temptation is to compare the unfamiliar to the familiar and this usually results in the unfamiliar getting the short end of the stick. But if this approach is eschewed, an objective listener can – as here – encounter an occasional diamond long sequestered amid the galaxies of sapphires.
These are not sonatas in the sense of those penned by Mozart and Clementi. Instead they lie somewhere between those of Scarlatti and his Iberian disciples, e.g., Padre Antonio Soler, and the mature examples of the genre that seemed to flow in a steady stream from the quills of the masters of Classicism. Schizophrenic via the employment of distinctive stylistic traits of both eras, Galuppi’s sonatas are usually written with the melodic interest falling to the right hand and the left hand providing the essential underpinning, frequently in the form of an Alberti bass. They do not consistently approach the level of virtuosity found in the single-movement works of Scarlatti but the lack of unfettered virtuosity is offset by Galuppi’s unfailing lyricism and his ability to create cogent and engaging musical ideas that are dotted with an occasional structural or harmonic idiosyncrasy.
There is much melodic beauty in these relatively brief and generally bipartite works and they descend gracefully on the ear, eliciting a wholly positive response from the auditor. My favorites include the first of sonatas in F and the one in D Minor whose first movement melodic content seems to embrace they dying Baroque and could easily have been written by Handel or Bach.
Volume 1 of this series drew much critical acclaim for Sievewright’s advocacy of this reperoire, much of which remains unpublished. The sonatas recorded here represent the second installment in the projected cycle of Galuppi’s 90 sonatas by Sievewright and the British firm Divine Art and the music could not have a more sophisticated or dedicated advocate. In each sonata he unwraps a musical gift of exquisite beauty, gently embracing and caressing the slow movements with Italianate grace and lyrical expression that border upon the romantic while the more lively sections are permeated with a delightful and appropriate bounce and spontaneity. Seivewright’s gentle coaxing produces a kaleidoscopic array of dynamics and a rainbow of colors. These sonatas may never challenge the place of honor held by those of Mozart, but Sievewright pleads both an elegant and eloquent case for a reexamination of his shadowy repertoire.