Pietro Domenico Paradies (1710-1792) was a Neapolitan-born harpsichordist, teacher and composer who lived for most of his career in London. His own output was considerable, much of it preserved in manuscript at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. A sparkling Toccata entered the repertoire of pianists in the early 20th century such as Dame Myra Hess and received a few recordings as well as ‘Hooked on Classics’ style arrangements, but his collection of 12 sonatas (of which the Toccata is the finale of the sixth) remains comparatively obscure.
Published in London in 1754, the sonatas quickly won admirers among professional and amateur musicians alike. In December 1774 Leopold Mozart, on one of his concert tours with Wolfgang, wrote home to Salzburg that 'Nannerl should practice the clavier most diligently, especially the sonatas of Paradisi and Bach.’ Without rivalling the grandeur or the unpredictable invention of comparable works by the likes of CPE Bach, the sonatas nonetheless possess features that distinguish them from most of their contemporaries.
All 12 are cast in two movements, with both slow and quick finales: more similar in this regard to the earlier Scarlattian genre than the Classical norm of a three- or four-movement sonata. Yet Paradies writes with an attractive mixture of Baroque and Classical styles, a rich and expressive harmonic vocabulary, and an original grasp of form, especially in the first movements. The brilliant, Scarlattian figuration, textures, rhythmic vitality, and the lack of technical difficulty in relation to late Baroque contrapuntal music are probably key to the Toccata's enduring popularity, but these qualities can also be found throughout the collection.
In his albums for Brilliant Classics, Alessandro Simonetto has made a speciality of under-recorded harpsichord music from this artistically mercurial late-Baroque era. His set of the nine suites by Pieter Bustijn (94187) was recommended by MusicWeb as a ‘Bargain of the Month’: ‘a disc that no lover of Baroque or harpsichord music in general should be without: nearly eighty minutes of enormously appealing, high-octane invention superbly rendered by Alessandro Simonetto.’ His set of the 12 Suites by Johann Mattheson (95588) also won three stars in the French magazine Diapason.
Pietro Domenico Paradies (1707-1791), also known as Paradisi, was born in Napoli. He was most probably a pupil of Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) and began composing primarily for the theatre. In 1746 he moved to London where he established himself as a teacher of the harpsichord and voice.
Today, his reputation rests on a collection of twelve harpsichord sonatas, presented here on the piano. This collection appeared in 1754 when it was issued by the London publisher, John Johnson.
All the sonatas in the collection are formed from two contrasting movements: the first longer and the second shorter, usually in a shared key. All bear the influence of both Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) and Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) through their structural idiom, innovative keyboard virtuosity and various harmonic eccentricities.
Played by Alessandro Simonetto, whose earlier recording for Brilliant Classics with works by Mattheson and Bustijn met with enthusiastic critical acclaim.