D Scarlatti: Sonata in F minor, K481; Sonata in F, K462; Sonata in B minor, K87; Sonatas for two players: in D, K443; in C, K423; in C, K502; in D, K492 etc

COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Paradizo (dist. Harmonia Mundi)
ALBUM TITLE: D Scarlatti
WORKS: Sonata in F minor, K481; Sonata in F, K462; Sonata in B minor, K87; Sonatas for two players: in D, K443; in C, K423; in C, K502; in D, K492 etc
PERFORMER: Skip Sempé, Olivier Fortin (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: PA 9003
Like ‘Umami’, ‘Duende’ is a concept best assimilated physically. Try to define the word as applied to Skip Sempé’s ‘Scarlatti 250’ tribute and you’ll flounder… But to listen is to comprehend aurally in seconds. Here, in 17 sonatas, Sempé lays bare Scarlatti’s Spanish soul with a visceral immediacy that should silence any scholarly sniper fire. Technically it’s a tour de force, the F major Sonata K6 or the D minor K517 despatched with nothing other than jaw-dropping razzmatazz.

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Most intriguing though (and controversial) are four sonatas presented with an accompanying harpsichord continuo, a two for the price of one which turns the hunting horn ‘tally-ho’ of K502 into something positively Bacchanalian, and adds an exhilarating dimension to the D major K443. Here Sempé has missed a trick. In a fascinating take on the concept of the ‘paired’ sonata he could have prefaced each ‘duo’ sonata with a straight solo performance. But even so, part of the fascination is the way his bright Italianate instrument interacts with the resonant boom of Olivier Fortin’s French harpsichord. The D minor ‘Aria’ K32 supplies a wistful postscript (Sempé’s Andantes usually disinclined to sit still), but this is a disc fired with an all-embracing Mediterranean volatility, a smouldering sense of danger, and dusted with the pungent Hispanic kick of smoked paprika. If you buy just one Scarlatti disc this anniversary year, make it this one. Paul Riley