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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas Vol. 8
Sonata in A Kk181 [3:42]
Sonata in E Kk496 [4:48]
Sonata in C Kk420 [4:25]
Sonata in F minor Kk466 [6:39]
Sonata in B flat Kk441 [2:59]
Sonata in B minor Kk87 [6:13]
Sonata in D Kk96 [4:50]
Sonata in G minor Kk426 [5:48]
Sonata in A flat Kk127 [5:29]
Sonata in F minor Kk462 [5:18]
Sonata in A minor Kk382 [2:24]
Sonata in C Kk485 [5:08]
Sonata in A Kk101 [4:27]
Soyeon Lee (piano)

rec. Performing Arts Centre, Country Day School, Ontario, Canada from 6-8 January 2006 DDD
NAXOS 8.570010 [62:10]



Unless caught up by a project not yet begun, this will be the first complete Scarlatti sonata series on the piano. But don’t hold your breath because it is perhaps about a quarter complete and it certainly started before the turn of the millennium. After volume 7, the voyage had apparently been becalmed for a couple of years although the Naxos website has recently contained news of two further recordings which are now on the way. As with previous issues, there is a different pianist for each disc. Sensibly, the better known works are being shared out and here Soyeon Lee, the Korean born prize winner of the 2004 Concert Artists Guild competition has four at her disposal – Kk numbers, 87, 96, 420 and 466. Kk96 is one of the best known of all and has been recorded by both Horowitz and Pletnev.
 
The disc begins with a couple of much more obscure sonatas which set a fairly relaxed tone. Kk420 has a martial opening theme which is perhaps a little understated, certainly there is nothing showy about Lee’s playing. K466 is a haunting piece which is taken slowly but the result is well-justified. Sensible programming gives us a light airy work before another example of deeper inspiration from Scarlatti – Kk87. Here the pianist’s rock-steady pace and singing tone are both essential assets.
 
Kk96 follows – the centrepiece of the recital. If Lee’s rendition is not a striking as either of the great Russian’s alluded to above, comparisons are not entirely to her disadvantage. In Scarlatti, being less distinctive is not necessarily a bad thing and it is hard not admire playing as supple and musical at this. The rest of the programme takes us into the by ways of the oeuvre but these are as good a reason as any for dipping into this series. Worth a particular mention is Kk127 which has an ever changing mood and is set in the rare key of A flat. The disc concludes full circle in the key of A but is one of the composer’s more exuberant creations.
 
Soyeon Lee is clearly a rising star. This playing is effortless and she invariably seems to catch the most apposite of this composer’s many moods. I’d rather like to hear more of her Scarlatti (and perhaps some Bach) so perhaps there could be some flexibility in respect of future issues? That said, I do have some doubts about the Naxos Scarlatti series as an entity and would regard it as likely to remain something to be dipped into. Of the previous issues, Benjamin Frith in volume 5 is the most persuasive I have heard but Soyeon Lee at least matches him. Indeed this is on a par with another Russian – Yevgeny Sudbin – whose 2005 BIS recital was a very fine achievement (see review).
 
The recording is worth a special mention – well up to the high standard Norbert Kraft has previously set on various discs for this label. The documentation is also decent and the only thing that feels cheap about this disc is the price.
 
Patrick C Waller
 
 
Links to reviews of previous volumes in the series:
Volume 3 (Jando)
Volume 5 (Frith)
Volume 6 (Zarafiants)
Volume 7 (Scherbakov)

 

 

 


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