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COMPOSERS: Scarlatti/Handel
WORKS: Sonatas
PERFORMER: Murray Perahia (piano)
Domenico Scarlatti once said that his music ‘imitated the tunes sung by carriers, muleteers and common people’. Maybe that’s why it’s so attractive, and these two discs present it in widely differing ways. Beause’jour uses a 1985 Beaupre harpsichord modelled on a Grabner instrument of 1774. Following the practice of Scarlatti’s day, it’s tuned to A=415, so that the music sounds a semitone lower than the stated keys. On it he plays 18 of the 550-odd sonatas with impeccable technique, tasteful embellishments, a wide range of emotion and a deep sensitivity. In the K162 Sonata in E he varies his registration to emphasise Scarlatti’s built-in contrast. He plays the music straight, resisting fussy changes of stops and contrived echo effects – all in line with modern Baroque scholarship. The sound is clean, bright and alive.


Perahia plays his choice of seven sonatas (there is no duplication between the discs) on a modern piano and, of course, at the modern pitch. There are two ways of performing harpsichord music on the piano: pretend the piano is a harpsichord and curb its Romantic excesses; or treat the music as if it was intended for the piano, using all the instrument’s manifold resources of legato phrasing, dynamics and expression. Perahia opts for the latter course, and Scarlatti emerges gently Romanticised. Like Beausejour, Perahia has both the dexterity and the soul. He plays delightfully, his embellishments form a natural part of the unfolding melodic line, and he makes a powerful case for his interpretative view. More than half of his disc is given over to Handel – three of the keyboard suites (including the Harmonious Blacksmith) and the Chaconne in G, all just as persuasively delivered.