Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Domenico Scarlatti
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas
PERFORMER: Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 458 165-2
Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas have been subjected to all sorts of treatments. I still possess an LP played by Valda Aveling on a cumbersomely large instrument which she treats like a 19th-century organ; many harpsichordists continued to over-register performances well into the Eighties. Far better to hear them played by a sensitive artist like Mikhail Pletnev, whose piano recital on Virgin is wonderful, though an appropriate harpsichord is still better when it comes to matters of articulation.

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On this disc Christophe Rousset brings a lovely sense of Gallic refinement to a varied selection – more representative, I would hazard, than that offered by Ralph Kirkpatrick on his vintage recital for DG – of 15 sonatas, balancing well their boldness of rhetoric with that sense of organicism which marks them out as forerunners of Classical sonata forms. He takes us from the brilliant (Kk 461 in C) to the pensive (Kk147 in E minor) to the solidly Teutonic (Kk 52 in D minor) with a polished charm that puts him at the top of the tree. If you are looking for a single disc representative of Scarlatti’s art, this one is just about ideal. Andreas Staier’s individual discs on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and Teldec – neither planned as part of a complete account – are also worth collecting, and the late Scott Ross’s complete, 34-disc survey on Erato remains a triumph achieved under the enormous adversity of advancing AIDS.