Instrumental Cherubini

Michael Lukey

viernes, 22 de febrero de 2008
Luigi Cherubini: 6 Sonatas. Piano Sonatas in F major, D major, B flat major, G major, D major, and E flat major. Andrea Bacchetti, piano. Balance engineer: Michael Seberich. Executive producers: Luciano Rebeggiani and Mario Marcarini. One hybrid super audio compact disc, total playing time 76 minutes. Recorded at Sacile, Fazioli Concert Hall, July 2006. RCA Red Seal. Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Italy) Spa. 88697057742
Although Cherubini’s compositions for keyboard instruments have not been entirely absent from the recorded catalogue, this part of his oeuvre is not yet widely known; he is perhaps still most associated with his operas and, especially since Riccardo Muti’s great recordings, his choral compositions for the Restoration monarchy. The present CD contains six keyboard sonatas published by Cherubini when he was twenty-three years of age, and thus when he was still living in his native Italy. The sonatas were printed in Florence in 1783, and remained Cherubini’s only publication of instrumental music until the appearance of the first three string quartets in 1836.

The pianist Andrea Bacchetti along with Mario Marcarini, who wrote the liner notes accompanying this CD, together prepared a new edition of the sonatas based on the original sources (although it is not clear whether the 1783 printed edition or the actual manuscripts were used). This suggests that the two ought to have a profound knowledge of these compositions, and indeed Marcarini provides an insightful essay on Cherubini’s keyboard works in the accompanying booklet, and Bacchetti’s interpretations reveal a deep understanding of the music.

According to the 1783 title page, the six sonatas were written “per cimbalo”, or for the harpsichord. However, in his notes Marcarini points out that they could also be played on a fortepiano, which was "an instrument already widely in use in Florence at the time". Indeed, recordings of these works played on both instruments have already been available for several years. Bacchetti, however, plays on a Fazioli F278, making this, as far as I can see, the first recording of these pieces on the modern grand piano. The chosen piano is brilliant in sound, but with Bacchetti’s relatively generous use of the pedal he makes it clear that he has no intention of mimicking these earlier instruments.

Bacchetti’s playing throughout the recording is elegant and easy, and his ornaments sound particularly natural and are brought off with great smoothness. The distinction between melody lines and accompaniment is always attractively clear, and tempi are well-chosen; while the pianist clearly possesses an accomplished technique, never is there a hint of pretentious virtuosity. Furthermore, Bacchetti’s control of dynamics is often exquisitely judged and executed. Just occasionally the rubato or rhythmic freedom is perhaps a little too strong, and an entry slightly less than one minute before the end of the opening track seems to be slightly out of time. However, it should be stressed that only one or two blemishes can be found in the entire CD, and that the overall standard of piano playing and musicianship is excellent.

All six sonatas are in a major key, and all are rather short in duration. However, with Bacchetti’s playing they never seem like frivolous, or even ‘light’, pieces; at the same time, they are not at all ‘over-played’. With Cherubini still suffering somewhat from his old reputation of being too scholarly a composer, it is especially welcome that Bacchetti reveals to us the touchingly human side of these compositions.

Finally, mention must be made of the superb standard of recorded sound on this SACD, with the bright Fazioli beautifully captured. Based on the piano playing, the sound, the presentation of the disc, and the liner notes, this release is highly recommended – and this endorsement is only strengthened when the quality of this rarely heard music is also taken into account.


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