From a historical point of view, the passage from the harpsichord to the piano world can be identified in the work of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832): his imposing oeuvre (comprising more than one hundred sonatas and many studies) is grounded on solid classical bases but it opens towards the dizzying romantic innovations.
Nevertheless it is difficult to understand how a few, even talented and productive, composers could have led the keyboard technique from Scarlatti’s finger dexterity (undoubtedly a genius, but still harpsichordist in his nature) to the titanic torments of Beethoven or to Liszt’s transcendental peaks.
As usual, historical reality is more complex: the dynamics of art (like all human ones) are not based only on a single man action, but always on the action of forces (in opposition or in cooperation) that integrate or expunge the expressive needs of a single artist. It will be a task of History, though, to give them value or not, to exalt them or not, to make them everlasting or to crush them forever.
If we consider the lapse of time from the second half of XVIII and the second half of XIX century, we can notice that the rediscovery work has never been done. Names once famous like Cramer, Hummel, Moscheles, Thalberg rest under the thick dusty blanket of centuries, waiting for some virtuosos who take the task to show their actual artistic importance. Anyway we are speaking about well-known names: we have good biographical (sometimes also bibliographical) materials and some scant recordings (often collector’s rarities).
Italian piano world of that time make no exceptions. The traditional Vulgate establishes the axis: Frescobaldi – Scarlatti – Clementi – Martucci, like an homogeneous unique line and a few pianists today (even professional ones) would be able to quote other names to enrich the chain.
The present work on Gaetano Valeri (Padua 1760 – Padua 1822) goes in this direction. A completely forgotten composer today, Valeri was very active at his times: Maestro di Cappella at Padua Dome since 1805. He composed mainly sacred music (two operas), but also organ concertos and piano sonatas. Valeri is an interesting hybrid between a classical language of common usage and a strong technique, sometimes similar to Clementi: it is the typical case of a excellent musician who cares more in chiseling small traditional forms than in breaking them to investigate their expressive possibilities
His keyboard sonatas (“keyboard” refers to organ and piano, as usual at that time) are in one movement, rarely in two, and in a two-part structure.
Generally without high dramatic contrasts, these pieces show a total command of the materials and a plain invention where the taste for sketching is supported with the knowledge of being a part of italian keyboard tradition.
In this project all Valeri’s piano sonatas expressly labelled “per pianoforte” (or “per organo o pianoforte”) are recorded for the first time, enriched by a Symphony (transcription by Valeri himself) and an Adagio for piano
Genius “of creation and not of imitation” (as N. Pietrucci notes in the only biographical note we have, the “Biografia degli artisti padovani”, Padua, 1858), Valeri deserves all the attention that we owe to a rich cultural phenomenon: italian piano world at the beginning of the XIX century.