Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Domenico Scarlatti
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas
PERFORMER: Mark Swartzentruber (piano)
A New Yorker cartoon some years ago portrayed a dispute arising from a radio broadcast in a cultured Manhattan household. A clearly irritated woman is saying to her male companion: ‘Why can’t you just say “Scarlatti” instead of “Scarlatti, of course”.’ While one’s sympathies are with the woman, the smug WASP she is living with has a point: nothing sounds quite like Scarlatti. All those strummed guitar effects, the disarmingly casual discords and lyrical passages uncannily suited to the piano form a unique blend. A possible pitfall for Scarlatti players, and something that might apply to Mark Swartzentruber, is to expect that the composer’s individuality will do all the work. Although the programme Swartzentruber has selected balances a variety of tempi and moods, there is a homogeneity to the whole presentation that more dash in the prestissimo K545 or shading in the long K426 could have helped to combat. That said, Swartzentruber is an accomplished player who interprets Scarlatti with elegance and sophistication. Trills are executed with unfussy good taste, and there are memorably fluid and warm renditions of K426 and K490. Even more would have been achieved if Swartzentruber had dared to be a bit more different. Christopher Wood