Fanfare

Here’s a project that better-known pianists and bigger companies will be knocking themselves for not having thought of first, for this is the first volume of what will be 10, containing all 90 keyboard sonatas of Baldassare Galuppi (1706-85) Here we have eight, in A Minor, C Minor (two), B I Major, A Major, G Minor, E Major, and F Major. Galuppi, of course, we all know from Browning’s poem, “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”, proof if we needed it, that Galuppi’s was at one point a name that Browning could be sure his readers would recognize. Indeed, pianist Peter Seivewright’s notes with his disc talks of Galuppi’s “fall from stellar celebrity to almost total obscurity today”.
Seivewright’s extended essay (billed, intriguingly, as “part one”) gives a learned summary of his achievements and the principal stylistic characteristics or his music, which is anchored in the Baroque but, as Seivewright puts it, “looks forward not only to the Classical period but also on to the early Romantics, such as Weber, Schumann, and Mendelssohn”. It doesn’t have the sheer verve and varied panache or the keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti, 21 years his elder, but it can more than hold its own against that of Antonio Soler, who was nine years younger but essentially a more conservative composer than Galuppi. There is an enormous amount to enjoy on this disc, from calm elegance to finger-stretching display, and Seivewright’s projected integrale might well do us all the service of reminding other players that here is a composer whose return to the concert platform could brighten up a good many recitals.

You may have come across thc playing of the English-born, Scottish-based Peter Seivewright through his two Naxos CDs of the Nielsen piano music, though he has also recorded with the Danish label Rondo; and I am pleased to see that he has plans to record, also for Divine Art, the piano music of the neglected northern English composer William Gillies Whittaker – that will be well worth looking forward to. In the meantime he proves a reliable guide to Galuppi’s measured spirit. One might have hoped for a little more agility in the trills and turns, but at this stage one’s attitude, as Tom Lehrer sings, should be one of gratitude, for Seivewright’s endeavor is an important one and deserves every success. The recorded sound, barely marred by a tiny editing glitch, gives the piano (unidentified, but dating, I guess, from some time in the second half of the 19th century) quite a bit of space, but not so much that it is set at a distance from the listener.

A CD can often be distinguished not only by the quality of the music it presents but also by felicitous touches in the presentation. Here it’s in the lace-art designs on the front and back of the booklet by Lucia Constantini, working on the Venetian island of Burano, where Galuppi was born – a lovely little kiss with which to send this disc on its way in the world. Warmly recommended.

—Martin Anderson