D Scarlatti: 18 Keyboard Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: 18 Keyboard Sonatas, K 3, 8, 9, 29, 32, 64, 72, 132, 141, 208, 239, 380, 420, 430, 431, 472, 481 & 514
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 642 0162

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Pianists such as Vladimir Horowitz and Mikhail Pletnev, to name just two exhilarating exponents, have already claimed Scarlatti for themselves. With previous recordings embracing Rameau and the pianistically-elusive François Couperin, Alexandre Tharaud has certainly put in the contextualising spadework ahead of this disc devoted exclusively to the Italian-born, Iberian-domiciled wizard of the Baroque keyboard sonata.

But if Tharaud is evidently aware of the stylistic insights afforded by the scholarly diggings of the past few decades, he’s unrepentantly pianistic in his approach: witness how he sumptuously pursues inner voices that catch his fancy, and nurtures a ravishing translucency through which he creates a spectrum of seductive colours. 

Above all, Tharaud is a thoughtful musician, not afraid to open with the enigmatic F minor Sonata K239 whose restraint is tempered by the incisive click of castanets, and he concludes with the moodily-despatched D minor K9 (perhaps a touch self-consciously manicured).

Another D minor sonata (K32) brings out the romantic in him, while the G minor K8 offsets a stately, haute-couture sarabande tread with rich soulful thrumming. But the ‘Spanish’ Scarlatti also encourages Tharaud’s aristocratic pianism to sparkle: the C major K72 exudes infectious ebullience (and a playful left hand) in spades, and the D major K29 is utterly scintillating with suddenly sprung scalic upthrusts that take no hostages. 

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Some of what Tharaud does is idiosyncratic to the point of quirkiness, and ‘period’ purists might occasionally raise an eyebrow, but Tharaud’s is playing with personality, revelling in Scarlatti’s playful inventiveness and pungent harmonic daring.