|Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas Vol. 3
Sonata in G major, K.201 [3:40]
Sonata in D minor, K.10 [2:27]
Sonata in B major, K.261 [5:21]
Sonata in B flat major, K.70 [2:06]
Sonata in D minor, K.444 [2:55]
Sonata in A minor, K.54 [4:44]
Sonata in A major, K.537 [3:35]
Sonata in F sharp minor, K.447 [2:32]
Sonata in E major, K.46 [4:17]
Sonata in A major. K.212 [3:26]
Sonata in E minor, K.203 [4:50]
Sonata in G major, K. 105 [5:29]
Sonata in C minor, K.126 [8:15]
Sonata in F major, K.525 [2:18]
Sonata in F minor, K.69 [5:18]
Sonata in D major, K.119 [5:41]
Jenö Jandö (piano)
Rec: December 1999
NAXOS 8.555047 [66.53]
Two differing opinions. In the end it depends on your views on
Firstly Kirk McElhearn
The harpsichord-piano debate is a never-ending one: should one play music
written for the harpsichord on piano? And, if so, should it be considered
the same music, or merely an arrangement or adaptation? There are several
reasons not to - not only the sound, but also the very structure of the
instrument (the harpsichord is plucked, not hammered, and notes cannot be
held in the same manner). But, aside from the mechanical aspects of the
instrument, there is also the question of tuning. A piano is tuned to equal
temperament, which fits well with romantic music, written with this in mind.
Chromatic notes do not stand out the same, and intervals have different colours.
Also, the instruments were tuned to different frequencies (the piano is A
440, and the harpsichord, depending on the period and country, could be anywhere
from A 390 to 415, and even other frequencies).
So, listening to a recording like this, one has to choose - is it a piano
recording, or is it merely a recording of harpsichord music on piano? While
I, personally, prefer listening to harpsichords, I am not averse to hearing
Bach, Couperin or Byrd on piano, if it is played well. Listening to this
recording, however, is a shock. Jenö Jandö, a very competent and
expressive pianist who has made many excellent recordings, plays this music
as if it were totally removed from its true style and context. If there is
one word that describes Scarlatti's harpsichord sonatas it is flamboyant.
Yet Jandö's performance is anything but flamboyant - he sands off every
rough edge, every rhythmic quirk and every bit of originality that makes
Scarlatti's sonatas such great music.
Scarlatti wrote 555 sonatas for harpsichord, and each of them stands out
as a unique work. The term 'sonata' here has nothing to do with the later,
classical definition of a work with several movements. Scarlatti's sonatas
are brief works, most just a few minutes long. They are all driven by an
intense feeling of rhythm; they are all based on dance movements, as were
most baroque harpsichord pieces, and Scarlatti rarely composed introspective
music: slow sonatas that gave time to think. His leitmotiv was energy,
unrestrained verve and liveliness.
Unfortunately, Jandö does not seem to understand this. In some of the
sonatas he plays far too slowly, in an uninspired, insipid way that tries
to turn Scarlatti into Beethoven. His performance of sonata K126 in C minor
is depressing - at over 8 minutes (compared to Scott Ross's recording at
just over 5 minutes) he drags on, erasing all of the rhythmic inventiveness
from the work. This sonata is very indicative of Scarlatti's compositional
style - fast rhythmic riffs, arpeggios and trills. Jandö smoothes all
this off and delivers a romantic retelling of the piece that is anything
Curiously, not all of Jandö's performances are this insipid. The sonata
K119 in D Major moves at a rhythm much closer to that of Scarlatti's original
intentions. It almost works, as does the sonata K 201 in G Major. Here, in
the first piece on this recording, Jandö seems much closer to attaining
the energy necessary to correctly transmit this music. But, he fails again
in the beautiful sonata K 261 in B Major, one of Scarlatti's finest. Jandö
is too vague, rhythmically, to truly make this music anything alive and vibrant.
A disappointing recording of some of the finest works written for keyboard.
Perhaps this disc, more than many, shows the importance of playing harpsichord
music on the instrument it was written for, and not "adapting" it for the
piano. It may appeal to those who dislike the harpsichord and think that
18th century music should be modernised.
But Terry Barfoot has a higher opinion of this disc
Domenico Scarlatti as born in 1785, the same year as Bach and Handel, and
studied in Naples with his father Alessandro and in Venice with Francesco
Gasparini; in Venice, indeed, he met Handel, who was in the city to advance
his understanding of the Italian opera. Thereafter Scarlatti travelled widely:
he worked in Rome, London, and Lisbon, before returning home to Naples in
1725. Four years later he moved to Madrid, where he lived for practically
all his remaining years.
Scarlatti is chiefly famous for his five hundred and fifty keyboard sonatas,
a body of work which developed the expressive range of this musical genre
to an extraordinary degree. In common with his exact contemporary Bach, he
wrote for the harpsichord with such verve and imagination that his music
sounds equally well (if not better) on the modern piano; indeed it has rightly
become a standard feature of the repertoire. The structures of the sonatas
are considerably varied; those featured here are all single movements.
This is Volume 3 in Naxos's Scarlatti project with the Hungarian pianist
Jenö Jandó, who has already made recordings galore with the company
in a wide range of repertoire. He is on excellent form here, playing with
imagination, taste and dexterity, as required. For the nature of these pieces
varies considerably from one to the next _ they are a veritable treasure
trove of imaginative and engaging music. To prove the point just try the
G major Sonata with which the CD begins. It makes compelling listening, such
is the imagination at the heart of Scarlatti's inventiveness.
Jandó is at his very best in what is perhaps the strangest of the
pieces collected here, the B major Sonata, K261. This unusual key certainly
generated a distinctive response from the composer: after a fairly innocuous
beginning, there is an obsessive insistence on repetitions of a single note
as the music develops, and these performances capture the strange and compelling
nature of the music with great imagination.
The recording too does justice to Scarlatti, with a nicely atmospheric presence
and warmth, as well as a pleasing clarity which allows all the details of
the music's extraordinary textures to be heard. With so many sonatas to his
credit, it is inevitably tempting to think that Scarlatti composed merely
to a formula. But nothing could be further from the truth, and this excellent
disc serves him the music well.