Victor Sangiorgio (piano)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
During the interval at a symphony concert recently, I conducted an impromptu mini-poll. What do you know about Cimarosa, I asked a number of concertgoers at random. Cimarosa? In many cases, the response was a blank look. If I’d posed the same question of opera goers, there would almost certainly have been a more positive response. Cimarosa? Isn’t he the one who wrote Il Matrimonio Segreto? Yes, it is and, an uncommonly industrious man, he turned out operas at the drop of a hat – and had them performed across Europe. His operatic output was colossal; he wrote no fewer than 60, of which nowadays it is only The Secret Marriage that gets anything like regular performance.
Understandably, this hardworking opera composer wouldn’t have had much spare time to indulge his creativity in other directions. Yet, in addition to his operatic labours, the industrious Cimarosa somehow found the time to write a great deal of music for the keyboard which, until very recently, has had very little exposure. It’s been one of music’s better kept secrets.
In the days of 78 rpm shellac gramophone discs, each of which might run for up to, say, 4 minutes, the chances of any company putting the complete Cimarosa sonatas on records would have been remote. In the early decades of the 20th century, many, if not most, families might have possessed a very small record collection. Used again and again, dust and other detritus would settle in the groove to provide an extraneous repertoire of hisses, crackles and pops, all accepted in those days as part of the miracle of being able to turn on music at any time of the day or night. And when wind-up gramophones gave way to electrically powered turntables, it seemed as if the ultimate way of experiencing recorded music had arrived.
Along the way, LP records, then cassette tapes, were touted as the ultimate in music-reproduction finesse and unlikely ever to be surpassed. The LP, in particular, was rich in possibility in that, for the first time, one could listen, uninterrupted, to, say, half a symphony before needing to put the flipside on the turntable. It was this that paved the way to current conditions where compact discs, with their significantly longer run-times, rule the roost, with recordings that provide uninterrupted listening of an hour or even more – as on this CD which contains just under 67 minutes’ worth of keyboard music.
But while CDs are the currently the favoured means for recording works of great length, it is only for the present. Doubtless in some laboratory or perhaps a shed in a suburban backyard somewhere, the next generation of recording techniques is about to be born, to be hailed as the ultimate until it, too, is overtaken by some other electronic miracle.
Until that happens – and it will – let’s make the most of compact disc recordings which have opened enticing new vistas for those seeking the rare and the novel. One of the most charm-laden compilations now available is this first volume of Cimarosa sonatas played by Victor Sangiorgio.
There are fifty tracks making up eighteen sonatas, the first of a series devoted to the complete sonatas of Cimarosa. Although the works vary in quality, even the least of them is worth listening to – and a great deal of that attraction derives from the musicality and musicianship that Victor Sangiorgio brings to every moment of this recording.
Sangiorgio is that rarity: a musician who scrupulously avoids interposing himself between composer and listener. In each of these tracks, he allows the music to speak for itself; it is like a golden thread through this compilation.
In the opening movement of the Sonata in A, R2 Sangiorgio is rivetingly brilliant.
Contrasting tonal colours are a feature of the second movement which leads into a gracefully stated finale. In Sonata in D, R3 (most of this compilation is in the major mode) busily nimble, buoyant note streams give way to fanfare-like figurations and a finale with an impeccably stated left hand line. And the gigue with which Sonata in D, R5 draws to a close is a model of clarity and refulgent sound.
Whilst these works are, for the most part, eminently listenable, they are not of any particular depth or profundity. So it is immensely to the credit of Victor Sangiorgio that his interpretations are so finely realised that, for the duration of most of these little works, the sonatas sound more significant than they in fact are – and that represents a very considerable feat of musicianship.
There’s much musical finesse here. Savour it: there’s more to come from Sangiorgio – and from Naxos which does invaluable work in placing largely forgotten music such as this on compact disc.