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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata K 126 in C minor; Sonata K 450 in G minor; Sonata K 108 in G minor; Sonata K 384 in C major; Sonata K 406 in C major; Sonata K 69 in F minor; Sonata K 518 in F major; Sonata K 519 in F minor; Sonata K 434 in F major; Sonata K 278 in D major; Sonata K 402 in E minor; Sonata K 403 in E major; Sonata K 202 in E major Christian Zacharias (piano)
Rec. 10/11 June 2002, Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen. DDD
SACD Hybrid MDG 940 1162-6 [61'51]


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In recent years, Christian Zacharias has become as well known a conductor as a pianist. Fortunately for us, this highly respected artist continues to apply himself to the instrument. With one or two exceptions, his extensive discography as a pianist has focused on the Austro-German repertoire: Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and, particularly, Mozart, performances of whose solo works and concertos have earned excellent reviews. The major exception is Scarlatti. Zacharias features in a documentary film Domenico Scarlatti in Seville and recorded two volumes of sonatas for EMI before this one for his current label, MDG.

I have to confess that, in spite of all the great pianists who have recorded Scarlatti, with Horowitz leading the pack, I still generally prefer to hear the sonatas played on a harpsichord. Only the harpsichord can give full value to the crunching discords, the coruscating scales, the guitar effects, etc. Having said that, I further need to confess that I have myself played certain sonatas on the piano, not to mention in arrangements for recorder ensemble. With that admission, I had better keep any ‘authenticity’ arguments to myself and get on with discussing this CD.

And highly enjoyable it is, with Zacharias giving tasteful, clear and unexaggerated performances of a well-chosen selection of sonatas. One of the great things about not being a Scarlatti specialist is that every new CD brings fresh treasures and almost all the sonatas on this disc were new to me. K 126 is galant in style and receives an appropriately poised performance. In contrast, K 450 in the same key of C minor has the flavour of Spanish dances. K 108 is powerful, quite pianistic in fact. The serenity of K 384 contrasts with the almost Beethoven-like quirkiness of K 406.

And so it goes on, with Zacharias meeting all the diverse musical and technical challenges with equanimity. In K 518, he employs a subtle rubato, crisp articulation and well-pointed ornamentation. In the restless agitato of K 519, Mendelssohn of all people came to mind; how easy it would be to give characteristic ‘songs-without-words’ titles to these sonatas! Zacharias is adept at handling Scarlatti’s frequent abrupt changes of mood, such as in K 434 where a quiet melancholy suddenly gives way to strength and power.

When I reached the end of this CD, I had forgotten that the harpsichord existed. These are rewarding performances of deeply-felt music and, however many Scarlatti recordings you have, you could beneficially add this one to your collection.

Roger Blackburn


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