The Scarlatti Restored Manuscript
Like Angela Hewitt, Andrea Bacchetti has carved something of a reputation for performing Bach on the piano, but whereas Hewitt’s Baroque ‘byways’ have headed to France for Couperin and Rameau, Bacchetti has returned to his Italian roots and now adds Domenico Scarlatti to sonata discs of Galuppi and Marcello. Not for him, however, an essay in cherry-picking some of the Neapolitan’s tastiest morsels. In collaboration with Mario Marcarini, Bacchetti has created new editions of Scarlatti’s works from manuscripts housed in Venice. (The booklet notes present thickets of catalogue numbers and codices impenetrable to all but the most dedicated librarian.)
If the ten selected Sonatas tend towards the elegant rather than Scarlatti’s more pungent Iberian manner, this probably suits Bacchetti’s temperament, since his pellucid tone and decidedly spacious tempos set a premium on an urbane, thoughtful, Italianate lyricism. Indeed lasting well over eight minutes – harpsichordist Scott Ross despatches it in half the time – the C minor Sonata K174 meanders leisurely like a day-dreaming gondolier taking the quieter canals home; and what sounds initially soporifically seductive becomes progressively more suffocating.
Bacchetti’s fastidiousness when over-indulged can swaddle the music in cotton wool; and while his articulation is ideally crisp and able to convey a punchy purposefulness, Scarlatti’s quicksilver jeux d’esprit is often (as in the G major Sonata K171) constrained within a forensic intellectual sobriety.
Four sonatas by Antonio Soler (designated ‘bonus tracks’ though they constitute nearly a quarter of the disc’s duration) confirm Bacchetti’s neatly-turned, haute couture poise. Bringing up the rear, an E major Sonata facilitates a conspicuously festive finale.