Virginia Black Performs Domenico Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
ALBUM TITLE: Domenico Scarlatti
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas
PERFORMER: Virginia Black (piano)


Virginia Black’s long immersion in the music of Domenico Scarlatti is everywhere apparent in these assured, fluent accounts of 12 of his keyboard sonatas – single-movement works which the performer has artfully arranged in groups of four.

Though Black’s previous recordings of Scarlatti are on the harpsichord, here she returns to her roots as a pianist, playing a Yamaha grand in the silvery acoustic of Forde Abbey, Somerset. Comparing the different versions is like comparing a fresco with an oil painting: the former, light and diaphanous; the latter, rich and luminescent. With the delicate action of the harpsichord, Scarlatti’s fiddly embellishments are neater and more decorous, while on the piano they are weightier and occasionally cumbersome. Rapid passagework is rather muddier on the piano, and some of Scarlatti’s repeated chords are dense here where they are delicate in earlier recordings. The brighter timbre of the harpsichord works well for the sunny, Hispanic sonatas, and the instrument’s plectrum mechanism vividly evokes the twangling guitars and clicking castanets that so inspired the composer.


The piano, on the other hand, is more suited to Scarlatti’s lyrical, romantically expressive works, and Black exploits its resonance and its palette of colours to sustain lingering melodies and to paint exotic harmonies. Her bouyant rhythms convey what Ralph Kirkpatrick described as ‘the wiry tension of Spanish dance’, and, throughout, her passion for this music shines through. Kate Bolton-Porciatti