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18.10.06

More Scarlatti Sonatas

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Domenico Scarlatti, Sonatas, Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord (released on September 15, 2002)
Any piano student with a decent teacher will be forced to play some of the Domenico Scarlatti sonatas at some point. I always resented having to play Scarlatti, because it meant that Bach would be bumped from the Baroque slot on my recital program. More interested in (let's be frank: obsessed by) the more intellectual Bach's works, I was usually left unsatisfied by Scarlatti, because it seemed like the work it took to master the technical demands in these bon-bons -- all that damn hand crossing, especially -- was not worth the result. My attitude toward Scarlatti has softened in recent years, thanks to the much better players who have showed me how exciting these sonatas can be, the aural equivalent of a Chardin genre painting, brief visions of light and the fleeting happinesses and sadnesses of life.

Scarlatti on Ionarts:

Scott Ross (December 21, 2005)

Alain Planès (June 30, 2005)

Mikhail Pletnev (February 8, 2005)

Ivo Pogorelich (July 8, 2004)
Jens has reviewed several discs of Scarlatti sonatas from today's best players, and it seems right to toss this recent CD onto that pile of enjoyable listening. American harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss came from the High School of Performing Arts in New York and Oberlin Conservatory and then pursued higher study with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. He now teaches chamber music at the Paris Conservatory, lucky man. The instrument he plays here, a modern copy (Anthony Sidey and Frédéric Bal, Paris, 1988) of a Ruckers-Hemsch Baroque period harpsichord, has a loud, percussive sound. Although I'm not sure if the sound inspired the interpretation or if Weiss selected the instrument for how it would complement his vision of the sonatas, the result is an exciting, carnavalesque recording.

The final pairing of sonatas, K. 175 in A minor and K. 222 in A major, are a jangly explosion of sound, an angry piling up of Scarlatti's trademark harmonic complexity in the former and a slightly demented gigue in the latter. These tracks are an apt conclusion for a program of 27 sonatas, chosen by Weiss from several of Scarlatti's collections and compositional styles and arranged in sets of two or three around a common tonic note. Richard Langham Smith's eclectic liner notes, written in abecedarian format (from the conclusion: "X was the sign for a sharp in Scarlatti's manuscripts . . . Zampogna. Bagpipe effects occur occasionally in Scarlatti's music but not for long"), offer little illumination on the selection.

Satirino SR 021

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