FRMS Bulletin

Galuppi (nicknamed “Il Buranello” after the island in Venice where he was born) was in his lifetime a well known and very successful musician who also became extremely rich. He is referred to in the famous “Memoires” of Giacomo Casanova. His name was immortalised in the notable poem by Robert Browning named “Toccata of Galuppi’s”. In his lifetime he was most famous for his operas; he was invited to London in 1741 to write operas for the King’s Theatre in London, his operas were successful throughout Europe. Besides opera he wrote oratorios and church music and much instrumental music. Most of Galuppi’s keyboard sonatas were written in the last few years of his life and are mostly unpublished. He wrote 90 Piano Sonatas and the precise dating of them is an impossible task. The two discs here are the first two of a planned 10 disc set of all the sonatas. There are eight sonatas on disc 1 and nine on disc 2. Most are of two movements but some have three movements. All are of versions prepared by Peter Seivewright from the original manuscripts.

It seems clear that Galuppi wrote most of these sonatas for the pianoforte (which was just coming into use at the time). On these discs they are played on a Steinway Model D piano, but given a very close recording so as to try to capture the more restricted sound of the 18th century instrument.

What about the music itself? I found it both interesting and tuneful. Many of the sonatas remind me of the style of C P E Bach (whom Galuppi had met in 1765), but several of the sonatas look forward to the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann and it is clear that here we have a composer of original and formidable talent. This music is unknown but certainly deserves hearing.

Peter Seivewright (who has recorded piano music of Carl Nielsen and of contemporary Scottish composers) plays with a caressing style which reminds me of Glenn Gould (a pianist whom I admire). He is also clearly a scholar and musical historian of merit as the essays provided by him in the record booklets demonstrate. The notes in Volume 1 are about “Galuppi’s life and times” whereas that in volume 2 is a historical and philosophical discussion of “Galuppi, the counter-enlightenment and the Roman Catholic Church” – a fascinating study.

The CDs are well presented and with excellent notes as indicated in the last paragraph. The one thing that is lacking are notes about the individual pieces. I enjoyed these two volumes and can recommend them to anyone looking for piano music away from the beaten track.

—Arthur Baker