BALDASSARE GALUPPI (1706-1785)
Passatempo al cembalo - Harpsichord Sonatas
In January 1782, an important Russian Granduke on a visit to Venice with his wife received in homage a collection of 6 Sonate for harpsichord. The personage in question was Paul Petrovich, the son of the czarina Catherine, who was destined to succeed his mother in 1796 as czar of all the Russias. The author of the sonatas was Baldassarre Galuppi, called “Il Buranello” in reference to his birth in 1706 on the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon, who had served the czarina in St. Petersburg until 1768. Galuppi had begun his career at the age of 20 as a virtuoso harpsichordist and composer for that instrument (the musical connoisseur Charles Burney called him “a good harpsichordist”) and he wrote no fewer than 130 sonatas for the keyboard. Yet after 1760 he had not composed a single work for this instrument, and the sonatas for Paul I would have been forgotten if they had not reappeared almost half a century ago in the library of the conservatory in Genoa. These pieces are contained in a precious autograph manuscript of Sonate di Baldassar Galuppi detto il Buranello, dated 1781 and entitled “Passatempo al Cembalo” (a modern edition by Franco Piva was published by the Fondazione Cini in 1964). We cannot be sure that these are the same sonatas which Galuppi dedicated to the Russian Granduke, but it is certain that they were intended for a noble music lover capable of performing very difficult music of an extremely elegant and refined character. The manuscript is particularly meticulous in its dynamic and expressive markings (“legato”, “sciolto”, “dolce”, “rissoluto”, “arpeggiato” etc.).