A forest of blazing lightbulbs cluster around Joseph Moog on the cover of his new disc, but in truth Moog is more illuminated than Scarlatti. Musing on the plethora of recordings of Bach transcriptions and notes, he observes that in Scarlatti’s case ‘we find hardly anything comparable’. It doesn’t require the light from a 100 watt bulb to recognise that whereas Liszt, Busoni or others were trying to bring Bach’s organ works, Violin Partitas or cantata movements under the fingers of an amenable pianist, Scarlatti’s 550 or so keyboard sonatas needed no special accommodation.
Similarly when he claims to present a ‘voyage of discovery through the soundworld of Domenico Scarlatti’ eyebrows inevitably rise. A modern concert grand is as removed from the soundworld of Scarlatti’s keyboard as George Malcolm’s souped-up harpsichord that captivated an earlier generation. In essence Moog’s ‘illumination’ interleaves straight performances, often delivered with chaste clarity and dexterous fingerwork, with respectful augmentations by Tausig and more exuberant makeovers by Friedman – the gigue is a romp hugging the skeleton of the Sonata K532; while the ‘Pastorale’ K446 is queasily saccharine. Walter Gieseking’s Chaconne on K32 often sounds like Keith Jarrett improvising in the style of Rachmaninov.
Ultimately, a disc more diverting than illuminating – despite Moog’s incontestable flashes of pianistic lightning.