Cherubini                                New CD/SACD

Piano Sonatas - No.1 in F; No.2 in C; No.3 in B flat; No.4 in G; No.5 in D;
No.6 in E flat.

Andrea Bacchetti (piano).

RCA Red Seal 88697 05774-2 (full price, 1 hour 16 minutes).

Producers Mario Marcarini, Luciano Rebeggiani.

Engineer Michael Seberich.

Dates July 18th and 19th, 2006.




I had the pleasure of reviewing Andrea Bacchetti's recording of sonatas by Galuppi in February 2009. It was clear that the pianist took great care to illuminate the music's more precious, intimate qualities, emphasizing its tasteful demeanour. Here, the pianist tackles the set of six keyboard sonatas by Florentine composer Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) that he dedicated to Chamberlain Antonio Corsi. I was most interested to see how he might sift the essence from these elegant works, each of which is housed in two movements (a moderate or spirited first movement in sonata form followed by a usually more brilliant rondo).

Written for harpsichord or fortepiano, and naturally taking account of his benefactor's not inconsiderable facility alongside prevailing stylistic traits from Milan, these works would emerge as the composer's first published pieces. Cherubini's output for this genre was never destined to be considerable, and notwithstanding the composer's reputed dexterity at the keyboard(which nevertheless seems likely to have been quite modest in relation to Mozart's) the music often confirms an introverted persona rather than an inclination towards showmanship. Hence one might best regard these works as aesthetic, poetic, structurally compact windows into the composer's imagination, rather than as vehicles for demonstrating Cherubini's own aspirations as a keyboardist.


That said, the music itself often sports a smile rather than a frown, and indeed each sonata is cast in a major key. Not that this seems to have diminished the composer's penchant for the unexpected: take No.4, which inhahits a minor key for a fair proportion of the Rondo, or the Allegro con brio of No.5, which also makes a fleeting excursion into the minor before ultimately consolidating the tonality.
There are frequent opportunities for the player to transport the music into a more personalized realm by adding ornaments and variations, and it goes without saying that such adeptness would have been deemed part and parcel of the eighteenth-century keyboardist's skill base.

Bacchetti seizes control of the sonatas with a clear sense of purpose, never allowing the more meandering episodes (such as those that threaten to undermine the opening movement to No, 6, for example) to be left high and dry, which is an ever real prospect in music that is so dependent on sequential patterns and right-hand flgurations supported by the ubiquitous Alberti bass. One senses a shared agenda between the composer and the pianist, with some beautifully restrained nimbleness and no hint of the faintly disconsolate, static characterizations about which I quibbled in the slower movements of Bacchetti's Galuppi recording. There is genuine artistry here, and a sparkling erudition of phrasing to enhance the interpretations.

Mark Tanner




June 2009