Baldassare Galuppi held the position of church organist, from which he composed operas for the Italian stage. Since his forte was the keyboard, his operas have nice harpsichord recitatives (which usually I detest) and the harmonics are contrapuntal. Galuppi as a youth had studied counterpoint under Antonio Lotti, the first organist at St Mark's. Galuppi became cembalist in the great opera houses of Venice, and was involved in the first presentations of Vivaldi's operas there. Galuppi himself wrote at least 111 operas, the best of which are collaborations with the librettist Goldoni. The young Mozart reused some of the librettos that already existed in settings by Galuppi, and the mature Mozart raised to sublime heights the dramma giocoso form which Galuppi practically invented. This release supplies a missing link between Mozart and the opera world before his time.
This disc strikes me as an ideal introduction to the music of Turkey’s greatest composer. Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s style might be described as “Szymanowski with a primal rhythmic feel.” If you love the composer’s First Violin Concerto then you will find here a very similar exoticism, nocturnal atmosphere, and love of voluptuous textures. The harmonic style is intensely chromatic, but also highly melodic. Like Bartók in his last period, Saygun’s handling of tonality mellowed toward the end of his life, which makes the Cello Concerto more consonant than the Viola Concerto, but both works are absolutely gorgeous and masterpieces of their kind. It’s positively criminal that no one plays these pieces regularly in concert. The performances here are excellent. Tim Hugh is a well-known cellist, and he pours on the tone with all of the rhapsodic abandon that Saygun requires. Mirjam Tschopp also is a superb violist, with a big, beefy tone that never gets swamped by the intricate orchestration. It’s also very rewarding to hear a Turkish orchestra in this music–and to find that it plays beautifully under Howard Griffiths.