D Scarlatti: Sonatas

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Janiculum
WORKS: Sonatas
PERFORMER: Jane Clark (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: JAN D 204 (available from janeclark@intune.co.uk)
Martin Souter plays his recital on the world’s oldest surviving piano, a 1720 Cristofori pianoforte that now resides in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Cristofori, who invented the pianoforte, built his first model c1700.) The instrument has a delicate, chiming tone, complete with twangy bass notes, that is very attractive. It certainly suits the works on this disc, from the rapid-fire elation of Scarlatti’s K377 to his lilting K384, deftly shaded here by thoughtful pianism. Souter also performs some charming pieces by Scarlatti’s Portuguese associate Seixas and Spanish disciple Soler. The latter’s C major Sonata, with its sprightly melodic twists, is especially captivating. Still, the Cristofori is the real centre of attention, taking listeners on a rare and fascinating trip into a long-vanished sound-world.


Jane Clark spices her Scarlatti harpsichord recital with an expert knowledge of Spanish folk musics. Drawing on a familiarity with seguidillas and fandangos, she elaborates liberally on Scarlatti’s scores, only to commit her own sin of omission by ignoring many of his repeats. Her programme succeeds in illustrating Scarlatti’s range of emotion and style – peasant dances, church processions, flamenco guitars and vocal melisma are all transferred to harpsichord and vividly evoked in these innovative sonatas. (I’m less convinced by her claim that ‘many sonatas reveal the temperament of a manic-depressive’, but it makes an interesting comparison with Scarlatti’s own description of his Essercizi as ‘an ingenious jesting with Art’.) Clark plays with assurance and real conviction, though her staccato attack can engender rhythmic stiffness. Graham Lock