Pierre Hantaï brings an ‘intuitive understanding’ to Scarlatti’s Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Mirare
ALBUM TITLE: Scarlatti
WORKS: Sonatas (selection)
PERFORMER: Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord)


In the fifth volume of his survey of Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas Pierre Hantaï demonstrates, as before, his intuitive understanding of all those subtle ingredients that make this music compelling and to my ears utterly irresistible. As a harpsichordist and Scarlatti biographer, the late Ralph Kirkpatrick remarked that no one Sonata should be regarded as typical. The 16 pieces on this disc amply endorse his point – while at the same time impressing upon us a style that is always distinctive.

Though the component parts of that style are immensely diverse, overall the music is strongly characterised by syncopation, dissonance, chromaticism, cascading arpeggios, imitative passages and percussive effects. Sometimes, as in the E flat Sonata, K253 the tension is thrilling, providing expressive contrast with pieces like the poetic and reflective B minor Sonata, K87 which brings to mind Rameau’s La Villageoise. While such pieces are in a minority, fighting their corner against a profusion of wonderful extravagances and exoticisms, they are perhaps those that more persistently haunt the memory. No detail is lost and no expressive nuance overlooked in Hantaï’s vital and luminous playing. 

The disc is further enhanced by Mirare’s outstanding recorded sound. 

Nicholas Anderson