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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonatas: K.545, K.466, K.365, K.435, K.87, K.487, K.448, K.492, K.30, K.455, K.20, K.429, K.426, K.427, K.197, K.27, K.24, G minor
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
rec. Vasteras Concert Hall, Sweden, 10-12 October 2004
BIS BIS-CD-1508 [75:45]

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Comparisons: Horowitz/Sony, Pletnev/Virgin Classics, Scherbakov/Naxos

The title on the cover of this disc is "Scarlatti Piano Sonatas", and I must say that I am getting tired of this erroneous type of identification for the keyboard music of Baroque composers. The 25 year old Yevgeny Sudbin is playing a piano, but Scarlatti didn't compose piano sonatas - he composed sonatas for the instruments of his era.

Having said the above, I am not an enemy of Scarlatti on the modern piano. Although his sharply-etched phrasing and impetuosity is best served by the harpsichord, the right pianist can well convey these properties and do so while also offering the full diversity and constant invention of the composer's sonatas.

This brings me to Yevgeny Sudbin who is The Right Pianist. The Scarlatti disc is Sudbin's first solo recording, and it is superlative in all respects. My opinion is that he has no need to take a back seat to the superb recordings of Vladimir Horowitz or Mikhail Pletnev and is many steps above the disappointing recent issue from Konstantin Scherbakov.

Sudbin's playing of the works in major keys is infused with the joyous elixir of life, and the minor key pieces are wonderfully probing and melancholy. His pianism is outstanding, phrasing is supple, and rhythms are alert and buoyant. From a technical viewpoint, I am most impressed with the superb balance and conversational properties he offers among musical lines; qualities sorely lacking in the Scherbakov readings. Most important, Sudbin is always at the service of Scarlatti's music. When sparks and sharp contours are called for, Sudbin fully delivers; when silky phrasing is needed, he purrs exquisitely.

The program is also exceptional, presenting an equal number of major and minor key sonatas that are a virtual compendium of Scarlatti's keyboard styles. Sudbin plays each one as if he is the composer's soul-mate. Sudbin's rapid-fire delivery, spicing of Spanish rhythms, and perfect balance of musical lines make for a very exciting and detailed K 545. In the joyous sonatas, such as K 435 and K 487, Sudbin's exuberance and rhythmic bounce seem to leap out of the speakers. Particularly outstanding is his delightful staccato in K 435 and his virtuosic handling of the wide octave leaps in K 487. In the K 30 "Cat Fugue", Sudbin offers pristine stepping and a world of mystery. He also brings out all of Scarlatti's spontaneity and clear dialogue among musical lines as evidenced by his stunning treatment of K 426.

Sudbin is equally compelling in Scarlatti's minor key works of subtle poignancy and tenderness. Sudbin's K 466 pierces the heart with a warm sensuality, and his K 87 is haunting as he weaves his way through the abundant harmonic invention with gorgeous legato phrasing. The Sonata in G minor, not present in the Kirkpatrick numbering system, has a deep sadness fully probed by Sudbin, and K 197 is given a subtle intensity that is riveting.

Wonderful music and superb performances are certainly sufficient to warrant a strong recommendation. In addition, Sudbin's soundstage is outstanding in its clarity, crispness, and rich bass response. I have not heard such fine sonics from any previous Scarlatti keyboard recordings and doubt that they will be matched in the near future.

In conclusion, this new BIS disc is an essential recording for every Scarlatti enthusiast not allergic to the piano in this repertoire. Yevgeny Sudbin has all the technical polish and artistic inspiration to become one of the great keyboard artists of the 21st Century. I keenly look forward to following his career and urge you to do likewise.

Don Satz

see also review by Evan Dickerson

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