D Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Mirare
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas
PERFORMER: Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord)
The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti are a constant and ever-growing source of delight, not only on account of their fertile invention and astonishing variety, but for those elusive qualities which stir the imagination and touch our hearts. Pierre Hantaï, who is one of the most talented harpsichordists around at the moment, has chosen 18 sonatas from a vast pool of some 550 original keyboard works for a recital which outstrips any other recording of these pieces that I have heard. Hantaï is responsive to all the myriad expressive nuances of these mainly single-movement, binary-form sonatas, revealing an alluring sensitivity to Scarlatti’s distinctive and often stylistically transitional motifs and phrases. These qualities are very well illustrated by the A major Sonata, K208, whose warmth of colour and evocative intervals offer one of the most irresistible introductions to this repertoire that I can think of. While clearly having considered the issue, first raised by Ralph Kirkpatrick, of Scarlatti’s possible intention of pairing the sonatas according to key, Hantaï offers his own, somewhat freer solutions to the notion. By-and-large his sequences work well, though I was sorry that K492 had been lifted from its proven effective juxtaposition with K490 and 491, making a fine D major triptych. The warm and fruity voice of Jürgen Ammer’s harpsichord – a copy of a 1720 instrument – beautifully recorded, sets the seal on an outstanding recital.