Maestros of the Baroque
Rameau: Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin – Suite in G major; Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas K491 in D major; K213 in D minor; K380 in E major; K466 in F minor and K118 in D major
Finbarr Malafronte (guitar)
Quartz QTZ2136 58:53 mins
You’d think that harpsichord music would transfer well to the guitar: after all, both are plucked string instruments. But whatever the guitar might gain in greater dynamic and tonal definition of the individual lines, it loses in crispness, especially in ornaments, and in rhythmic attack and tightness. La Poule in the Rameau Suite, doesn’t convey the relentless hen-pecking that is so important in this famous character piece, and Les Sauvages just isn’t savage enough. Conversely, the lines in Les triolets and L’enharmonique need smoother phrasing to capture their quiet mood. What can’t be disguised is the relative lack of sustaining power in the guitar, even when as well and intimately recorded as here.
The five Scarlatti sonatas come off better, not least because the composer was often inspired by the texture and technique of the guitar music which he heard during his long career in Spain. In K491 the repeated chords and strong bass lines do conjure up something of the atmosphere of the original, and the uncluttered counterpoint of K213, taken at an easy tempo, leads the ear forward. It’s in sonatas like this and K466, where more rhythmic flexibility is possible, that Malafronte’s musicianship has greater scope.