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Early Music Media Review Print

Pietro Domenico Paradisi (Paradies): Sonate de Gravicembalo (1754).

December 12, 2006 - Williamsburg, MA:

Pietro Domenico Paradisi (Paradies): Sonate de Gravicembalo (1754). Elaine Funaro, harpsichord. Centaur CRC 2814 (76:40) © 2006. $16.00 + shipping. http://www.centaurrecords.com/.

Paradisi was an Italian who, like the later Clementi, found fame and "fortune" (a relative term in this case) in London, England, where he settled around 1746. He seemingly attempted to "Gallicize" his surname at some point prior to the publication of these pieces. Unlike Clementi, he was not involved in many different realms, nor was he nearly as prolific, so he is today primarily forgotten. He apparently earned a subsistence living as a teacher (harpsichord and voice) and producer of Italian operas. These two books of six two-movement sonatas each, which had at least seven editions by the end of his century, and which Leopold Mozart is known to have bought in 1774 for Nannerl, are his primary legacy since his own operas knew little success.

These works are in the style of the 600 or so sonatas of the other famous earlier Italian expatriate harpsichordist and composer who lived in Spain, Domenico Scarlatti. Books of his works were available in London when Paradisi arrived there. They are in the Rococo Galant style popular during the reign of the French king Louis XV.

This is lively, sprightly music, dance-rhythm based, with few movements, perhaps at most a sixth of the total twenty-four, and always the second one, being truly slow. It is also melodic and tuneful, with certain ones – the allegro of no. VIII, for example – being memorable, and many sounding like tunes you've heard somewhere before, although they are original and neither borrowed from others nor of popular or folk origin.

Elaine Funaro's performance is masterful, fluid and precise, as would be expected from one of the nation's finest performers on this instrument. The specific one used in this recording is the antique Kirckman (1758, a photograph of its keyboards graces the booklet cover), contemporary to the music, that belongs to Colonial Williamsburg, where the recording was made in the Chapel (1732) of the Christopher Wren Building at the College of William and Mary. Truly felicitous combinations of the four components — music, instrument, musician, and acoustic/sound — make this a delightful recording that gives exquisite pleasure on each listening.

The package is further enhanced by the superb booklet notes written by CVNC colleagues Joe and Elizabeth Kahn, which give a judicious amount of background and analytical information that is at the same time very readable. These are followed by a charming personal note from Funaro, informative historical notes on the instrument and the recording locale, and a bio of Funaro. She is to be thanked for finding and reviving this pleasant and worthy music.