Platti: 6 Trio Sonatas for violin, violoncello and continuo

Armoniosa
64:40
MDG Scene 903 1978-6

Several previous encounters with the chamber works of Giovanni Benedetto Platti (c. 1697-1763) have a favourable impression fully confirmed by this new CD of trio sonatas. Born in the region of Padua, Platti was educated in Venice, where his father served as violist at San Marco. In 1722 he went with a group of Italian musicians to Würzburg, where he was offered a place in the service of the prince-bishop of Bamburg and Würzburg. On the archbishop’s death two years later the orchestra was disbanded but Platti managed to find employment with the archbishop’s brother in nearby Wiesentheid, where it seems most of his music was composed. After the court orchestra was re-formed in 1729 Platti returned to Würzburg, where he would remain until his death in 1763. There he came into contact with Tiepolo, who included Platti in one of his frescos forming a part of his re-decoration of the palace.

Platti composed 22 trio sonatas, of which the six performed here have been published. With the exception of the Sonata in C minor, WD 694 (the numbering comes from the Wiesentheid library that is home to Platti’s manuscripts), which has only three, all have four movements, including the odd one employing dance forms. They tend to strike a balance between older Baroque forms and newer galant  tendencies. Unsurprisingly it is the minor key works that are more likely to adopt the former, though the B-flat Trio ends with a well-worked fugue culminating in a particularly satisfying stretto. Arguably the most satisfying sonata is the G minor (WD 691), which opens with noble, flowing Largho (sic) with considerable contrapuntal intricacy, before proceeding to a terse Allegro making much play on imitative sequences, another Largho, a heart-easing movement with effective use of suspensions and a brisk finale not without some quirky moments to add spice. Also worthy of special note is the opening Adagio assai of the Sonata in D (WD 680), an expansive melody that sounds like a quasi-operatic aria. But Platti’s writing in general is highly accomplished and appealing. If there is a fault it is perhaps an over- reliance on sequences.

The performances by the Italian ensemble Armoniosa are very attractive, being accomplished technically, thoughtful and unfailingly musical. I was especially taken by the readings of some of the slower movements, where there is much affecting cantabile playing. Full marks, too, for the stylish ornamentation the players apply to repeats (most movements are binary form). One curiosity is the use of both harpsichord and organ as keyboard continuo at the same time, which presumably accounts for the thickening up of the bass texture. I write ‘presumably’ as it is difficult to tell just how much this happens, since the harpsichord is so backwardly balanced that it frequently cannot be heard. Still, this is a fine CD of music that is assuredly worth investigating.

Brian Robins