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Briefly Noted: Sudbin Records More Scarlatti

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D. Scarlatti, Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2, Y. Sudbin

(released on March 11, 2016)
BIS-2138 | 74'30"

available at Amazon
[Vol. 1. 2005]
A decade ago, Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin came to our attention with a disc of Scarlatti sonatas. He has since released a startling number of excellent recordings and had his Washington debut recital, in 2009. His latest release is a second installment of Scarlatti sonatas, just as entertaining, varied, and gutsy as that first disc. He dives into this assortment, in the D minor sonata (K. 417), with the sort of verve that makes plain why these pieces, conceived for harpsichord, can be so effective on a modern Steinway. This "sonata" is a fugue, complete with stretto passages and numerous explorations of various segments of the subject in sequence-based episodes, which Sudbin takes at a fast tempo, never flinching and bringing to bear all of the volume and articulation-related force of today's instrument. He does so without losing any of the clarity in this piece, which in spite of having four distinct fugal voices, Scarlatti generally reduced to two or three parts.

The famous C major fanfare sonata (K. 157) is an absolute delight in Sudbin's hands, fast but more dance-inspired than merely fast and enlivened with all sorts of articulation and pedaling sleights of hand to create variations of texture. Inner voices can pop out of the score in surprising ways, as in the C minor sonata (K. 56), effects impossible to achieve on the harpsichord, often heightened by embellishments and other additions from Sudbin. The D minor sonata (K. 141), the showpiece with the repeated-note motif, is so fast that it is hard to distinguish the repeated notes, a sacrifice of the overall effect Scarlatti wanted for pure effect, a rare misstep. Like other critics, I was slightly underwhelmed when I finally heard Sudbin playing live for the first time. So it is interesting and perhaps not surprising to hear him admit, on the promotional video embedded below, that "I generally always love the process of recording. I find it actually in some ways more satisfying than the performance."

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