COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas
PERFORMER: Christian Zacharias (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 340 1162-2
Three new discs of keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti reflect the wide range of interpretative approaches that exist nowadays. Canadian Luc Beauséjour, in the second volume of what is presumably to be an extended, if not complete survey, has chosen a harpsichord, the instrument for which Scarlatti intended almost all of his sonatas. Christian Zacharias, by contrast, plays a modern piano, while Emilia Fadini, in what proves to be the most interesting of the three recordings, prefers a fortepiano copied from a late 18th-century instrument by Anton Walter. While purists may be drawn solely to Beauséjour’s recital, there is no denying the fact that pianos, ancient and modern, are wonderfully suited to the almost breathtakingly wide expressive vocabulary of Scarlatti’s musical dialogue.
Harpsichordist and scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick (whose ‘K’ graces the standard cataloguing numbers) remarked that no Scarlatti sonata should be regarded as typical. How right he was for, apart from their predominantly single-movement binary form, these richly rewarding pieces astonish our ears with their fertile invention, variegated colours, capricious changes of mood and at times almost disturbing emotional power. Fadini, more than the other two players, exposes the raw, percussive elements in the music, as well as its sheer rhythmic dynamism; there is an immediacy about her interpretation – an urgency, even. Her commanding and rhetorical account of the D major triptych (K490-92) is by turns reflective, lyrical and dazzling.
Fadini’s selection of sonatas is based on a group of pieces published by Clementi in 1791; and her choice of instrument, likewise, has been determined by the Clementi era. Fadini, incidentally, has also been editing a complete edition of the sonatas for the music publishers Ricordi for many years.
Zacharias, by contrast, takes a much gentler view of the pieces. His softly spoken phrases are alluring and he responds readily to the cantabile aspect of Scarlatti’s art. Everything is beautifully executed but just occasionally I found my attention wandering.
Luc Beauséjour’s harpsichord playing is dashing and technically agile; he captures the bravura aspect of the music admirably, yet he is apt to skate over moments of hidden charm in the faster pieces, where insufficient punctuation makes for breathless declamation – the A major Sonatas, K322 and K323, are cases in point.
All three performers, incidentally, pay lip-service to Kirkpatrick’s belief that Scarlatti intended his sonatas to be performed in pairs or in groups of three linked by key. Nicholas Anderson