Friday, April 6, 2018

Giovanni A. Matielli - Three Sonatas recorded on square piano by Patrick Hawkins

Patrick Hawkins, the Ganer square piano (Ron Hagell)

Patrick Hawkins’ premiere recording of three (and a bit) of Giovanni A. Matielli’s Opus 1 Sonatas on the square piano is definitely an enterprising project, considering the fact that Matielli (1733-1805) is virtually unknown to today’s audiences. Born in Vienna, he studied with Austrian court composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil, who was instrumental in seeing in the early Classical period. Known in Vienna as a teacher rather than a performer, it stands to reason that Matielli’s works would have been played by amateurs and diligent students. Not a great deal is known about the composer’s life; his reputation remains in the shadow of contemporaries of the likes of Haydn and Mozart. However, but it is known that Christoph W. Gluck “was fond of Matielli’s compositions and delighted in his keyboard sonatas”, as we read in the disc’s liner notes. Dr. Hawkins has recorded each of the complete sonatas on a different square piano, all of which were built in London at the end of the 18th century. Two belong to the Carolina Clavier Collection; the third - built by Christopher Ganer between 1785 and 1790 - is owned by Hawkins himself.


Patrick Hawkins invites the listener to a concert of salon music; we hear these sonatas as they must have sounded at the time. He opens with Sonata in A-major Opus 1/1 played on a Johannes Broadwood square piano of 1787. This is an exuberant work of some naïveté. Hawkins applies the instrument’s somewhat fluty timbre to highlighting the sonata’s brightness, its searching middle movement, then adding some fine ornamentation to the final Allegretto movement. Sonata in G-major Opus 1/3 is performed on a Longman, Clementi and Co. square of 1799, a piano whose more developed technology and depth of sound serves this more sophisticated and varied work well, with its many contrasts and expressive moments. Take, for example, the third movement - Affettuoso - a mood piece, played very personally, its repeated section embellished with some pleasing spreads. We hear some contrasted and spirited playing in the work’s fourth and final movement - Allegro - as Classical textures present themselves in quick, lively succession. Christopher Ganer’s 5-octave pianos, with their square, tapering legs, simple veneers of mahogany and satinwood and bronze medallions were typical of fashionable furniture of the 1780s. The Ganer instrument (1785-90), on which Patrick Hawkins plays Sonata in A-major Opus 1/5 has its own distinctive, more abrupt character. The sonata, opens with exuberant energy and a hint of flexing. Hawkins chooses a more detached texture for the second movement (Adagio), taking time and enlisting plenty of rubato to give it natural and thoughtful spontaneity, with the final movement exuberant, free and entertaining. Played appealingly, “La Caccia” from Sonata in E-flat Major Opus 1/6, the final piece on the CD, represents much that is so vivid and delightful about the Classical style, and how effective and engaging it sounds on the square piano. Introducing the listener to this unknown composer, “Giovanni Matielli, Three Sonatas” recorded in 2017 for the Golden Square label, will surely appeal to those interested in the style and possibilities of the square piano, its true sound and transparency. The liner notes offer much information, both on Matielli and on the instruments used for the recording.


Born in Virginia, Patrick Hawkins is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins University) and of East Carolina University and Arizona State University. Since making his European debut at the Cambridge Summer Recitals (UK) in 1993, he has continued to perform and teach internationally. As a choral conductor, he has conducted numerous school, church, and community choirs in Arizona, California, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. A founding member of the Vista Ensemble, a historically-informed performing organization of musicians in Columbia, South Carolina, Patrick Hawkins has recorded for Arkay and Navona Records.




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