This CD is almost as valuable for its musicological interest as for the music it contains. Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), a poor Neapolitan boy who was afforded a free musical education because of his obvious talents, is known primarily for one work, the sparkling comic opera, 'Il matrimonio segreto' (1792). He wrote over sixty operas, exceedingly popular in their day, but 'Il matrimonio segreto' is the only one much performed today. He was not at all known for any non-operatic works and it came as a complete surprise when, in 1924, a group of 81 keyboard 'sonatas' came to light, discovered in a library in Florence. They were in two bound manuscript books, not in Cimarosa's hand, but clearly labeled as being by 'Signor Cimarosa'. Although efforts to authenticate these works have been made, it is still not entirely certain that they are indeed by Cimarosa, although stylistically they certainly seem very much like his known music. Additional evidence that they are his comes from the fact that one of the keyboard movements appears, in orchestral guise, as the overture to one of his operas.
Musically, the works on this disc -- the fifty sonata movements which make up Book I -- are utterly charming. If you like the keyboard sonatas of Scarlatti or Soler, with whom they share stylistic features, you'll like these. The earlier ones are simpler in style than the later ones. Although in manuscript each of the fifty movements in Book I is labeled as a one-movement sonata, on this disc the Cimarosa scholar, Nick Rossi, using stylistic criteria, has grouped them into three-movement sonatas (with four exceptions, Nos. 5,9, 10, and 17, being in two movements), arranged as fast-slow-fast. Rossi also co-wrote the fascinating booklet notes.
The performances are by Victor Sangiorgio, an Italian-born Australian, now resident in Britain. Although I had not known of him before, this disc convinces me that he is an extraordinarily musical and convincing artist. He plays a beautifully regulated and tuned piano that is recorded marvelously in lifelike sound by engineer/producer Michael Ponder.