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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonatas (complete Keyboard Sonatas, Volume 7)
F major K483/L472; F major K542/L167; B flat major K360/400; C minor K40/L357; C major K422/L451; F minor K238/L27; F major K17/384; A major K500/L492; A major 114/L344; E minor K291/L61; G major K328/L527; A major K320/L341; G major K283/L318; C major K464/L151; D major K313/L192; D major K479/L516
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)
rec. 21-22 January 2000, Potton Hall, Suffolk
NAXOS 8.554842 [64.02]


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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. It was in Venice that he met Handel, who was in the city to advance his understanding of the Italian opera.  Thereafter Scarlatti travelled widely working 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. The two featured here are both single movements.

This is Volume 7 in Naxos’s Scarlatti project with various pianists. Konstantin Scherbakov has an imaginative and sensitive touch as a performer of this repertoire. His playing is true to the baroque stylistic origins of the music, while also pointing up its emotional possibilities. Excepting ‘purists’ who cannot endure this music on a modern piano, Scherbakov will give the listener the utmost pleasure.

There is a subtle range of repertoire, affording the determined listener the possibility of listening to the complete programme. However, the greatest rewards are likely to be gleaned by taking a grouped few pieces according to circumstances.

The expressive and technical range among these sonatas should not be taken for granted, not least in the longer items such as the extraordinary F major Sonata, the second item on the disc. There are few items in the minor key among this compilation, so that when one does arrive it stands out the more strongly. Perhaps it is for this reason that the substantial Sonata in F minor makes a particular impression, with its darkly expressive nature.

The recording too does justice to Scarlatti, since it is both atmospheric in ambience and clear in detail. This is a useful balance, which allows the details of the music’s imaginative textures to be experienced naturally. Since he has so many sonatas to his credit, it is all too tempting to consider that Scarlatti composed to a formula. In fact nothing could be further from the truth, and this most recent issue in the valuable Naxos collection can therefore be welcomed with enthusiasm.

Terry Barfoot


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