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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
The Complete Keyboard Sonatas (Kk Nos 1-555)

Scott Ross (harpsichord)
Recorded at various locations in France, 1984-1985 DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62092-2 [34 CDs - approx. 34 hours, 36 minutes]


Discs 12-22

CD12 [63:57]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 189 in B flat [4:36]; 190 in B flat [3:21]; 191 in D minor [4:06]; 192 in E flat [4:20]; 193 in E flat [4:57]; 194 in F [5:25]; 195 in F [4:13]; 196 in G minor [3:21]; 197 in B minor [3:44]; 198 in E Minor [3:18]; 199 in C [4:16]; 200 in C [3:53]; 201 in G [4:26]; 202 in B flat [5:10]; 203 in E minor [4:45].

At the beginning of this disc Ross reverts to the harpsichord by Martin that he used for the Essercizi and the bass timbre is rather lighter. Around pairs of sonatas in major keys, this disc contains several solitary sonatas in minor keys. Unlike those at the beginning of disc 11, Kk Nos. 191 and 196 to 198 tend to stay resolutely in the minor, giving a more plaintive effect than usual. Scarlatti can’t resist two bars of glorious B major at the beginning of the second half of Kk 197 but that is about it. Despite a relative lack of unusual modulations, the music still catches the ear as does Ross’s totally sympathetic approach. The F major pair Kk Nos. 194 and 195 is a good example of the conviction of his playing. These two contrasted sonatas – marked Andante and Vivo respectively are accorded rock-like rhythmic control and attractively varied repeats. Ross omits to repeat the second half in Kk194 and I am sure he was right – you can have too much of a good thing. Towards the end of the disc, Kk Nos. 201 and 202 illustrate well the endless variety of Scarlatti’s ideas. In the former, all is brightness in the first half but the second half opening brings great contrasts. In the latter, the first half is short and the second half is in binary form itself. Again it starts with new and much darker material – and also a change of rhythm from 3/8 to 6/8 – before ending with a variation of the first half. Finally, the rather grand Kk203 was possibly intended to be paired with Kk198.

CD13 [63:57]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 204a in F minor [4:40]; 204b in F minor [4:10]; 205 in F [6:26]; 206 in E [5:39]; 207 in E [3:25]; 208 in A [4:00]; 209 in A [4:32]; 210 in G [2:31]; 211 in A [5:05]; 212 in A [4;09]; 213 in D minor [5:51]; 214 in D [4:01]; 215 in E [5:45]; 216 in E [5:45].

On this disc there are some particularly wonderful sonatas – number thirteen certainly seems to be lucky here. To start with are the enigmatically catalogued Kk Nos. 204a and 204b – essentially they are a related pair just like many others. I have read something recently which speculated that Kirkpatrick adopted this numbering so that there were 555 sonatas – a memorable number. Neither sonata appears in Longo’s catalogue which has 545 in total (500 plus a supplementary volume of 45). Kk204a is notable for tempo and rhythm changes, and 204b is a rather stately kind of minuet. The following Kk205 is a marvellous extended singleton in which the time signature changes from 4/4 to 12/8 in the middle of the first half and then back to 4/4 for the middle of three sections in the second half. Kk Nos. 206 and 207 are paired in E major. Marked Andante, the former has some of the most outrageous modulations of all in the first half when four sharps suddenly become 3 flats. The booklet tells us that Kk208 was Ross’s favourite of all the sonatas. Marked Adagio e cantabile this requires little virtuosity and is not notably innovative but it is undoubtedly very beautiful. Perhaps Ross plays this a little too lovingly and with something bordering on rubato in places (most of the time he is as steady as a rock) but he is back on top form for the second part of the pair – another delightfully melodic sonata. Kk210 is short and, according to Ross, perhaps paired with Kk196. The disc concludes with three pairs; in each case the first has a slow tempo marking. In A major, Kk Nos. 211 and 212 are greatly contrasted. After much time in minor keys, the latter has a delightful sudden return to the home key seven bars from the end. Kk213 is in D minor and one of the most glorious of the slow sonatas. It was used as the theme tune for the French radio broadcast of all the sonatas in 1985. Kk214 starts in D major but spends much of the time in the minor. Kk Nos 215 and 216 are rather “tough cookies” despite their disarming openings. The former has a remarkably violent opening to the second half. If less immediately appealing than the most of the other pairs on this disc, they are undoubtedly great works. Finally, although the identical timings of the last two tracks looks like a possible error, both last for 5:45 although the latter sonata is a bit shorter because it is followed by 15 seconds of silence. This is a good idea – one feels replete of music at this point.

CD14 [56:15]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 217 in A minor [6:30]; 218 in A minor [2:59]; 219 in A [3:28]; 220 in A [5:13]; 221 in A [4:41]; 222 in A [2:51]; 223 in D [4:22]; 224 in D [4:00]; 225 in C [5:26]; 226 in C minor [4:06]; 227 in B minor [5:00]; 228 in B flat [3:55]; 229 in B flat [3:40].

Unlike on the previous disc, almost all these sonatas are little known but they are just as interesting. With the exception of K227, all are paired. The first 6 are in A minor or major and the last three of these are particularly harmonically imaginative. Ross’s playing in Kk220 is simply sparkling. Kk223 and Kk224 are bright and breezy, and followed by an opening to Kk225 which is in similar vein. The second half of this sonata is much darker foreshadowing a highly unusual switch to the minor for the second of the pair. There are a few minor/major pairs but this is the first to reverse the order. Apart from a few bars of great tonal ambiguity at the opening of the second half, Kk226 is well-rooted in and around C minor, and Ross plays it as one of Scarlatti’s slower Allegros. Kk227 is remarkable for completely different time signatures in the two halves (2/4 followed by 3/8) and Kk229 for frequent rapid upward runs. In the booklet notes, Ross tells us that Brahms studied Scarlatti sonatas and suggests a thematic relation between Kk223 and one of his lieder (Op.72/5).

CD15 [56:33]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 230 in C minor [4:10]; 231 in C [3:40]; 232 in E minor [4:16]; 233 in E minor [4:49]; 234 in G minor [3:44]; 235 in G [4:39]; 236 in D [3:51]; 237 in D [3:26]; 238 in F minor [3:47]; 239 in F minor [3:35]; 240 in G [6:03]; 241 in G [1:52]; 242 in C [4:36]; 243 in C [3:59].

Here there are seven straight pairs of sonatas. The opening works, Kk Nos. 230 and 231 are a minor/major pair, the former quite stately for an Allegro and the latter very bright and decorative. The next two pairs have Andantes to start with and I particularly enjoyed Kk232 in E minor – one of Scarlatti’s most attractive slower sonatas but hardly ever recorded. In the next pair, it is the faster work (Kk 235) that is of particular interest. An “open” sonata, the new material at the beginning of the second half is highly-contrasted and in 6/8 time. The movement reverts to the original 3/8 half way through. Ross regards repeats of the second half as optional (generally omitting them in slower, closed sonatas) but a repeat seems essential here and he provides it. Scarlatti is at his exercise again in the very next sonata, Kk236 when, after a fairly ordinary first half, the second half begins with a whole page of continuous semiquaver runs divided between the hands. The next pair, Kk Nos. 238 and 239 are particular favourites of mine and Ross’ renditions are simply superb. The former is slowish with insistent dotted rhythms and it is followed by a perfect foil which Ross takes very quickly indeed. These two sonatas illustrate how interesting repetition can be in the hands of a master. Then comes Kk240, an extended work with substantial and almost separate sections in the relative minor in each half – one of Scarlatti’s most unusual and greatest sonatas so far. In the second of the pair, Kk241, Ross made an inspired decision to repeat only the second half, giving this much great concision than usual. The final pair has a relatively quick opener which is followed by a very martial sounding work. Again, Ross has the measure of it all – his immersion in Scarlatti’s world is so evident on this disc.

CD16 [57:44]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 244 in B [3:46]; 245 in B [3:48]; 246 in C# minor [3:17]; 247 in C# minor [4:16]; 248 in B flat [4:55]; 249 in B flat [5:26]; 250 in C [4:05]; 251 in C [3:22]; 252 in E flat [4:00]; 253 in E flat [3:09]; 254 in C minor [4:39]; 255 in C [3:34]; 256 in F [5:56]; 257 in F [3:26].

This is another disc with seven straight pairs of sonatas, the first two of which are in unusual keys. The first is one of only two pairs in B and these works open brightly before moving through many modulations. They are followed by the only two sonatas in C# minor which are texturally thick and almost continually dark in tone – Scarlatti at his most serious. It is no surprise that the mood is so different in the next sonata Kk248, this is humorous and almost Haydnesque; Ross plays it with great affection. The partner, Kk249, often manages to sound quite Spanish. On then to Kk250 in C major, this is a sedate Allegro in duple time and highly decorated. Its counterpart is unusual in not wandering very far from the home key. In the next pair, it is the latter work that is more striking. Here Scarlatti includes a section of continuous mordants section in the first half, alternating between the hands and sometimes off the beat. In the second half, he eschews an obvious rejoinder and gives us long repeated passages with doubled octaves in the bass. Kk Nos. 254 and 255 are in C minor/major, the latter at a quicker tempo. Ross unusually repeats the second half of the slower work and omits to do so in the jaunty foil. The final pair on this disc is particularly delightful. A long Andante with prominent dotted rhythms is followed by a most winning romp (Kk257).

CD17 [46:32]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 258 in D [5:20]; 259 in G [4:32]; 260 in G [5:44]; 261 in B [5:34]; 262 in B [4:33]; 263 in E minor [4:46]; 264 in E [6:04]; 265 in A minor [3:15]; 266 in B flat [3:27]; 267 in B flat [3:12].

Kk258 is an Andante that is on its own here, although Ross notes that it is paired with Kk53 in the Parma manuscript. Kk Nos. 259 and 260 are a well-known duo, the former an Andante and the latter an Allegro played very quickly (and delightfully) by Ross. The following pair is in B major but both sonatas are plaintive in character. In Kk 261 the second half is much longer than the first, essentially because of the extended new material at the beginning – bar upon bar of repeated triplets in right hand and ever-changing dark chords in the bass. Unusually, Scarlatti here seems to convey deep disquiet. Inexplicably, the documentation wrongly gives the keys of Kk Nos. 263 and 264 as E major and C major – they are in fact a pair in E minor and E major respectively. Kk 265 is the first sonata for a long time which does not have a binary structure – it is a rondo with time signature changes between sections. The final pair Kk Nos. 266 and 267 are relatively brief and notable for the playful ending to the latter during which Ross plays the humour card very well. The empty space at the end of the disc presumably reflects an imminent change of harpsichord, more of which later.

CD18 [63:09]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 268 in A [3:28]; 269 in A [3:47]; 270 in C [3:50]; 271 in C [3:05]; 272 in B flat [3:35]; 273 in B flat [4:11]; 274 in F [3:20]; 275 in F [3:11]; 276 in F [3:00]; 277 in D [2:39]; 278 in D [2:30]; 279 in A [3:48]; 280 in A [2:56]; 281 in D [3:46]; 282 in D [3:26]; 283 in G [2:39]; 284 in G [2:29]; 285 in A [3:54]; 286 in A [2:40].

Here Ross changes harpsichord to an instrument made by William Dowd/Von Nagel. This has a rather firmer bass than the Martin used over the last few discs but is not dramatically different. There are three pairs to begin with, of which the central duo Kk Nos. 270 and 271 seems the most remarkable. In Kk270 Ross unusually declines to repeat either half and in Kk271 his Vivo is lively indeed. Kk273 is open and very highly decorated, the second half beginning in 6/8 before reverting to the original 3/8. There follows the first triptych (of four in the whole series, according to Kirkpatrick) - Kk Nos. 274-276. The first of these is an Andante and it is followed by two Allegros but none of three seems particularly unusual or technically difficult. The following pair is of more interest, characterful sonatas marked Cantabile andantino (Kk277) and Con velocita (Kk278). With the latter comes the half way point in Kirkpatrick’s catalogue. Kk Nos. 279 and 280 are also splendid, the former notable for its range of modulations, the latter for continuous development of the thematic material. The next pair, Kk Nos. 281 and 282 are melodically attractive and the latter has a contrasting section shifted into triple time after a long pause ten bars into the second half. Scarlatti returns to common time and a variant of the opening to round things off and Ross sees no need to repeat the second half. Kk 283 is apparently marked Andante and Allegro simultaneously whilst Kk284 is a rondo is five sections. The final twosome are both rhythmically insistent and delightful works. Unfortunately the documentation goes awry again and gives their keys as A minor and B flat – they are both in A major.

CD19 [48:38]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 289 in G [2:58]; 290 in G [3:39]; 291 in E minor [2:55]; 292 in E minor [3:12]; 293 in B minor [3:37]; 294 in D minor [3:46]; 295 in D minor [3:43]; 296 in F [4:29]; 297 in F [4:16]; 298 in D [4:02]; 299 in D [3:10]; 300 in A [4:19]; 301 in A [4:27].

Kk Nos. 287 and 288 are for organ and are therefore placed with the other works which are not for solo harpsichord on disc 34. Kk Nos. 289 and 290 are a straightforward pair of works which do not stray far from the home key of G. The latter is a good example of what Scarlatti can do with fairly ordinary material. The next pair in E minor has more interesting themes, particularly Kk292 which is rhythmically characteristic of the composer and in 3/8 time. Kk293 is a rare singleton which moves into the major in the second half to good effect. Kk294 is an Andante in D minor, at least for the first thirteen bars, following which it shifts into the major and up a gear. Such contrasting sections are then alternated throughout both halves. Its partner, Kk295 is predictably lively throughout. The next sonata, Kk296 is most imaginative and has an extended feel to it such that Ross sees no need to repeat either half. Kk297 is a playful counterpart. In the next pair, the opener Kk298 has bars of repeated note semiquavers towards the end of the first half; in the second half Scarlatti is tantalising in the way he starts to repeat these and then varies to include a section of arpeggios for contrast. Kk299 is one of his more thickly scored sonatas with dark undertones whereas as virtually all is brightness and light in the final pairing of the disc (Kk Nos. 300 and 301).

CD20 [60:55]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 302 in C minor [5:00]; 303 in C minor [3:48]; 304 in G [2:42]; 305 in G [3:47]; 306 in E flat [3:58]; 307 in E flat [3:08]; 308 in C [3:54]; 309 in C [3:24]; 310 in B flat [4:07]; 311 in B flat [3:50]; 312 in D [3:51]; 313 in D [3:53]; 314 in G [4:37]; 315 in G minor [3:29]; 316 in F [3:59]; 317 in F [3:23].

Here are eight pairs of little-known sonatas, mostly in the major although the first pair is in C minor. Again, Scarlatti excels himself in this key. Kk302 is an Andante which has a contrasting bright major section at the end of each half. The following Allegro (Kk303) is very highly decorated. The next pair follows the Andante – here rather stately – followed by Allegro mould but could hardly be more different in feeling. Kk305 is vintage Scarlatti in 3/8 time. Kk Nos. 306 and 307 are both marked Allegro, the first is “open” and suddenly dark-toned at the beginning of the second half. Its companion contains almost continuous semiquavers alternating between the hands giving it a relentless veneer. Kk Nos. 308 and 309 are a very attractive pair, the first marked Cantabile then a bright jumpy Allegro which is most attractive. There is not much that is unusual about the next two pairs of sonatas – enjoyable and fairly typical of the composer. I particularly liked Ross’s performance of Kk313 in which he brings out the martial element of the music. Kk314 in G is bright and breezy, and, unusually for Scarlatti, stays almost completely in the major. Its companion is logically in G minor and provides a great contrast. The final pair of sonatas is simply sparkling and Ross gives both works the champagne treatment.

CD21 [60:55]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 318 in F# [3:35]; 319 in F# [3:38]; 320 in A [3:09]; 321 in A [2:41]; 322 in A [2:58]; 323 in A [1:58]; 324 in G [3:13]; 325 in G [2:24]; 326 in C [2:47]; 327 in C [3:30]; 329 in C [4;03]; 330 in C [2:09]; 331 in B flat [3:29]; 332 in B flat [3:51]; 333 in D [2:51]; 334 in B flat [2:44]; 335 in D [3:11]; 336 in D [2:58]; 337 in G [3:34]; 338 in G [4:03].

Kk328 is missing from the above list because it is for organ (see disc 34). The first pair of sonatas are the only ones in the unusual key of F# major. In both works Scarlatti includes sections with remote modulations, at the opening of the second half in Kk318 and, more surprisingly, after just 7 bars of Kk319. This particularly interesting pairing is followed by two more conventional works during which - shock! horror! - Ross seems to have played a wrong note. In the final bar of Kk321 he put a C natural in a downward A major scale first time round and then a C# during the repeat. I can only presume that this was an error which was missed in the editing process and, if so, it is the first one I have spotted in more than 300 sonatas. With Scarlatti there are quite a few notes which deliberately sound “wrong” but in this case it is hard to believe that this was the composer’s intent. I suppose it would be a miracle if anyone could play all Scarlatti’s sonatas without making any errors. There is nothing so remarkable in the next, rather straightforward, pair which are also in A major but for Kk324 it is Andante time again and its partner Kk325 gives the left hand a good workout. After that come four sonatas in C major; the second pair (Kk Nos. 329 and 330) is more interesting despite there hardly being a semiquaver in sight in Kk329. Its companion is typically bright and jaunty Scarlatti, and is based on very little thematic material. The next pair follows the AndanteAllegro model, and are bright and attractive in B flat. Kk333 and Kk334 are rare singletons and the former is particularly unusual in that the two halves have different time signatures and tempo markings, and no obvious thematic relation. Did Scarlatti perhaps stick these two disparate halves together for convenience one wonders? Interestingly, Kk334 seems to follow on from the end of the previous sonata, at least rhythmically, although the different key would seem to rule out an intentional pairing. The last two pairs are notable only for the use of the lute stop to produce a pizzicato bass effect in Kk335.

CD22 [56:40]: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos Kk: 339 in C [3:07]; 340 in C [3:50]; 341 in A minor [2:18]; 342 in A [3:04]; 343 in A [3:31]; 344 in A [3:08]; 345 in D [4:26]; 346 in D [2:58]; 347 in G minor [4:03]; 348 in G [2:48]; 349 in F [4:02]; 350 in F [2:46]; 351 in B flat [3:25]; 352 in D [4:05]; 353 in D [2:46]; 354 in F [3:08]; 355 in F [3:08].

The first two pairs of sonatas are fast and furious despite a rather innocent opening to Kk339. Then Kk343 provides something more sedate at the ambiguous tempo marking of Allegro andante. The first of the next pair, Kk345, is in similar vein (but marked merely Allegro) and is particularly attractive. With the pair of sonatas Kk347 and 348 comes great contrast, both within the pair and in relation to others written around the same time. Kk347 is marked Moderato cantabile and opens arrestingly with spread minor chords. In between lyrical passages are some fearsome upward runs in both hands. As it draws to a close, there is a real surprise – Kk348 follows attacca subito and is marked Prestissimo. Effectively the last chord of the first of the pair is missing; Ross justifies this in the booklet and with performances which are simply marvellous. A rather more ordinary pair follows before the only singleton on the disc – Kk351. This is a rondo with alternating Andante and Allegrissimo sections in 4/4 and 3/8 time respectively. Scarlatti mixes it up for the final, extended fast section by not altering the time signature. Two fairly conventional pairs conclude the disc, Kk354 being an Andante. The identical timing of the last two tracks is coincidence rather than error. There are now just two hundred sonatas left!

Patrick C Waller

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Introduction Discs 1-11 Discs 23-34 Conclusions

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