Domenico Scarlatti, Handel

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COMPOSERS: Domenico Scarlatti,Handel
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Sonatas (arr. P & Z Katona)
PERFORMER: Peter & Zoltán Katona (guitars), Liwei Qin (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 14298
Most guitarists eke out their repertoire with the guitar music other composers would have written if only they had thought of it. Duos rely even more on transcriptions. For the Katonas, camped-up Handel works better than earnest Scarlatti in a disc of bizarre but genuine appeal.

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The Scarlatti Toccata (K141) sums it up. Scarlatti wrote harpsichord music that sometimes imitated the guitar, and now it sounds like guitars imitating the harpsichord. Repeated notes become easy and arpeggios a challenge. Another role-reversal occurs with Handel’s Op 2/5 Trio Sonata as the former violin lines turn plucked and the bass is mostly bowed, rather scratchily with depth of tone kept for sustained notes. Still, the tone colours are attractive, and the guitarists are resourceful at varying them. They keep textures lucid and open. Their tour de force is the grand G major Chaconne, fluent and cumulative with a gradual acceleration through the minor-mode variations, exciting in its quirky way.

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Among five Scarlatti Sonatas the allegros tend to go slow so that all the notes can fit in – no aspersions on technique, which is immaculate, steely and exact in ensemble. Rhythms are sometimes stolid but pick up vitality in K427 and the flamboyant Handel Suite. Robert Maycock