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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]


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It has taken me five months to listen systematically to this set once with a few “retakes” here and there. Like Scott Ross when he was recording them, I felt bereft when I had finished. Unlike Ross I was able to go straight back and begin again and that is precisely what I did. I have also since been listening to Volume 17 of Richard Lester’s complete set. That disc contains 23 sonatas, including all 13 which are not in Kirkpatrick’s catalogue and were not recorded by Ross. It is therefore a valuable supplement but there was nothing in terms of Lester’s approach or the recorded sound that seemed preferable to Ross. Indeed, I found the 1980s Erato sound considerably more natural. Lester is clearly a fine harpsichordist but Ross was completely inside this music and has a huge price advantage for those wanting the complete set.

I hope I have made my enthusiasm for Ross’s playing clear in the foregoing. There is a consistency about his approach which is admirable, allied to formidable technique. Ross was both scholarly and practical – for example his decisions about ornamentation and repeats became predictable and the latter usually accorded with my desires to hear again or move on. He was an absolute master at the transitions between halves – invariably these were seamlessly given although that means you will often have to be smart to spot them without seeing the printed music. The sound too rarely draws attention to itself so there is nothing to come between the listener and Scarlatti’s endless inventiveness.

Although, the documentation is excellent overall, there are a few minor errors here and there, mostly relating to key signatures. Perhaps when there are more than 500 works to document, it would be surprising if there were none.

Apart from major libraries, which I hope will regard this as a mandatory acquisition, Scarlatti enthusiasts should certainly purchase this set immediately or put it on the wish list. Ideally, it should remain in the catalogue on a long-term basis but that is by no means certain. Since it is unlikely to become cheaper (other than in a sale), it would be wise not to delay too long before making the investment. For those unable to countenance 34 CD sets, there would also be place for a larger collection drawn from it than the single disc Elatus issue. Such a three disc set existed a few years ago - based on selections made by Ross - but it may be expecting too much from Warner for that to be reissued that at bargain price soon.

Without doubt, this set is a pinnacle in the history of recorded music. Profound thanks are due to Warner Classics for making it so accessible and affordable.

Patrick C Waller

Internal Links

Introduction Discs 1-11 Discs 12-22 Discs 23-34

External links

Sale of complete set:

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Sale of single disc sampler:

AmazonUK £8.99

Sale of Kirkpatrick’s book:

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John Sankey’s MIDI files:

Sonatas listed by Kk, L and P numbers:

Richard Lester's complete set:




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