January/February 2009, "Fanfare" magazine, USA
If the name Giovanni Benedetto Platti does not register in your internal memory bank, do not be alarmed. Platti (1697?-1763) is one of music's better-kept secrets. He is listed in all of my favorite (and yellowing) print sources, but only in the sketchiest way. He was born in Padua, near Venice, where he studied, possibly with Vivaldi, and later attracted the attention of the Prince Bishop of Bamberg and Wurzburg, who brought him to his court in 1722. There he acted as oboist, violinist, and "tenorist," as well as court composer and tutor. He wrote a substantial amount of vocal music, nearly all of which is lost (much of it during World War II), and about 120 instrumental pieces, notably keyboard sonatas and concertos for various instruments. He married a court singer, who bore him 10 children, and remained in Wiirzburg until his death, despite the hard times that eventually decimated its musical establishment. His music was not widely disseminated during his lifetime and mostly forgotten after his death.
Judging from the contents of the present release, Platti is well worth getting to know. An oddity of his legacy is that only one concerto has survived for each of his two principal instruments, the violin and the oboe, both of which are included in this program. The Oboe Concerto has been recorded, rarely, in the past, but the Violin Concerto is identified as a world premiere recording-as is the Harpsichord Concerto. Platti learned the fortepiano in Italy and is probably best remembered for his keyboard music, especially his sonatas. The cello, his patron's instrument and featured in much of Platti's output, is represented by the Concerto and the Trio Sonata, in which the cello has a prominent role. An example of Platti's vocal music, a succinct setting of the Stabat mater, for bass soloist and orchestra completes the program. Platti's music bridged the divide between the Baroque and the galant, and, in fact, he was credited by some scholars with inventing the sonata form. That hypothesis has been rejected by later scholarship, but the fact that it was even entertained would, it seems to me, make him a figure of some historical import.
Pratum Integrum Orchestra, a Russian conductorless period-instruments ensemble that is just now making its presence known here, makes a strong case for Platti with stylish and vivacious performances. For the record, the concerto soloists, all splendid, are Alfredo Bernardini, oboe; Olga Martynova, harpsichord; Sergei Filchenko, violin (and concertmaster); and Pavel Serbin, cello (also artistic director). The bass soloist, Dmitry Stepanovich, is capable, but not particularly memorable in the Stabat mater. You'll learn more about Giovanni Benedetto Platti from Frohmut Dangel-Hofmann's liner note than you will from five books and Wikipedia combined. Recorded in sumptuous surround sound, this excellent disc is enjoyable, illuminating, and perhaps important. George Chien