Venezia 1700 – Würzburg 1763
Platti was born in or near Padua on July 9th 1697 and died in Würzburg on January 11th, 1763. He was an important and major participant in the musical world of the 18th century. In Venice, he was a student of Francesco Gasparini; in 1722 he emigrated to Germany where he entered into the service of the prince and bishop of Würzburg, Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn. In February 1723 he married the singer, Therese Maria Langsprücker, also part of the bishop’s choir (Cappella vescovile) and together they had at least eight children, some of whom followed in their father’s footsteps.
Giovanni Benedetto spent his whole life in Würzburg, and became known for his refined musical talent and his ability as a composer, singer, harpsichord player, violinist, oboist, cellist and he even dedicated some of his time and talent to teaching singing.
Some of his compositions have survived to today testifying to his work. Some of these were published in his lifetime, namely: VI Sonates pour le Clavessin sur le Gout Italien, op. 1 ( 1742) ; VI Concerti for harpsichord and stringed instruments op. 2 (1742, perd.); ClaVI Sonate a flauto Traversiere solo con Violoncello ovvero Clavicembalo, op. 3 (1743); VI Sonate per Clavicembalo solo, op. 4 (1746, perd.); Arianna, a melodrama (1729, perd.), Franconia christiana, oratory; S. Elena al Calvario, oratory. Instead, handed down in manuscript form are: a few Cantatas for voice and instruments, four Masses, a series of compositions of sacred music, among which the Miserere and the Stabat mater stand out, 12 Sonatas for cello, a series of four Ricercate for violin and cello, 12 Concertos for harpsichord, 28 Concertos for violoncello, one Concerto for violin, one Concerto for oboe, 22 Trio sonatas, one sonata for violin and b.c., 12 sonatas for cello solo and b.c., 18 Sonatas for harpsichord. Among these works, the Sonatas for harpsichord are notable, showing profound and heartfelt expressiveness.
All of Platti’s work demonstrates his intention to broaden the stylistic horizon of the time, starting from a quintessential Baroque foundation and evolving to touch in edge of Classicism. As Fausto Torrefranca observed, his style oscillates between two poles: Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, but given the composer’s training in Venice, the latter’s influence is, logically, more pronounced. In the case of Platti, his new stile galante, is not immune to the influence of German composers contemporaries of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons, but above all it owes much to the influence of the coeval Scuola Napoletana and especially Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, as well as to the influence of many Venetian composers, to name one Benedetto Marcello. His enthusiasm for writing vocals emerges forcefully in slow movements, for the most part having a lyrical imprint and foundations in bel canto.
In making a significant contribution to the evolution of harpsichord sonatas, Platti plays a particularly decisive role in the transition from Baroque marked by daring conceptual constructions, to Pre-classicism known for its essentiality, precision and ‘natural’ rationality, so much so as to be able to be considered one of the most important maestros of the ‘nuovo gusto’. It should be added that according to some scholars, Platti may have been a major reference point for the youthful keyboard compositions of Joseph Haydn and of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Therefore, it is not by chance that Fausto Torrefranca, one of the first to study Platti, says in his fundamental and monumental publication, Giovanni Benedetto Platti e la Sonata moderna, which was published posthumously by Ricordi in Milan:
“How to portray Giovanni Benedetto Platti […]? He was a true artist, this is evident, but he was also a great artist and must take his place in history among the most important authors of instrumental music. […] As far as music for harpsichord is concerned […] his style stands out over that of his contemporaries. To have a clear idea, just choose and read, one after another, those works in which he has been able to instill his true personality in the most concise and brilliant way and he conquers a place in the world of the indisputable, the highest sphere of art.”
(from the booklet by Filippo Emanuele Ravizza)
Venezia 1700 – Würzburg 1763