Home to the invention of the fortepiano in 1711, Florence was a cultural hotbed for composers and instrument makers during the early 18th century. One former resident of the city who went on to write for the new mechanism was Luigi Cherubini; composed in 1780, his delightful Sei Sonate are the subject of this engaging release.
The arrival of the fortepiano allowed players greater control over loudness and softness of sound – a distinction that is clear in the sonatas’ musical language, even though all were published under the generic term ‘keyboard’ to allow wider distribution. Cast in a two-movement format and rooted in the major key, they were not only designed to test the amateur performer’s dynamic variations but also his or her dexterity through virtuosic figuration, numerous arpeggios as well as a multitude of trills. From the sonata-form structure of the first movement (whose thematic material is often condensed into two-bar motives without any further elaboration) to the rondo layout of the second, these are pieces that pursue a very different, generally lighter aesthetic to equivalent sonatas by contemporary composers like Mozart.
While Cherubini is best remembered for his vocal music, these six sonatas are assured instrumental works that do justice to his status as one of Beethoven’s most notable contemporaries. Performed with gusto and flair, they offer moments of exquisite expression which provide a tantalising hint of what the Italian went on to achieve in his operas and sacred compositions.
Recorded in 1990
New booklet notes by the Cherubini scholar Michael Fend.