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Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Toccatas (Complete Keyboard Works Volume 1)
Toccata d'ottava stesa [09:47]
Follia [07:27]
Toccata in d minor [04:54]
Toccata in G [03:53]
Toccata in g minor [09:50]
Toccata in F [05:04]
Toccata in a minor [05:02]
Toccata in F [05:14]
Toccata prima in G [04:55]
Toccata in e minor [07:32]
Toccata in G [04:38]
Alexander Weimann (harpsichord)
rec. October 2003, Eglise Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Saint-Alphonse, Quebec, Canada. DDD
ATMA ACD22321 [69:04]

Right now the music of Alessandro Scarlatti is getting more attention than ever before, but musicians are still very selective in what they are performing. One part of Scarlatti's oeuvre that is widely neglected is his keyboard music. Alexander Weimann is not the first to pay attention to this genre: the Italian keyboard player and director of the Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini, devoted a disc to the genre. But Weimann is the first to plan to record it all. He writes in the booklet, "as a composer for the keyboard, Alessandro Scarlatti ... deserves the same respect that we show for his vocal works." That statement is in strong contrast to the verdict of Malcolm Boyd in New Grove: "One would hardly recognize the father of Domenico Scarlatti from the keyboard works that have survived, most of which seem to have acted as pupil fodder." It is perhaps a negative view like this which has prevented Alessandro's keyboard works from becoming standard repertoire for modern keyboard players.
The present disc concentrates on Scarlatti's toccatas, which are varied in character. Some toccatas contain several sections, which are distinguished by contrasting tempo indications. Other pieces are called 'toccata' after the first movement, which is mostly followed by a fugue and one or two other movements, including dances like corrente and minuetto.
Many pieces are very virtuosic, and the most striking example is the first item on this disc, the 'Toccata d'ottava stesa', which contains some passages which are almost impossible to play. No less virtuosic is the next composition, 29 variations on the famous ostinato bass, known as 'Follia'. Striking is the use of acciaccature which creates strong dissonances, and there is an abrupt ending without returning to the original key. Acciaccature are also used in the Toccata in A minor (track 7).
Scarlatti's keyboard works are mostly connected to the past, like the Toccata in g minor (track 5). Stylistically this toccata can be compared with the 'toccate all'elevazione' which were so popular in the 17th century, and which made use of durezze (harsh sounds) and ligature (notes to be played legato). Especially interesting from the perspective of performance practice is the Toccata prima, in which Scarlatti gives indications in regard to fingering. These are conflicting, but "some parts do not differ from modern fingerings" (Alexander Weimann).
As these compositions contain frequent arpeggios they seem to be written for the harpsichord. But some can also be played at the organ, as Weimann writes in the booklet: "There are hints that everything that is played arpeggio on the harpsichord should be played tenuto on the organ".
The fact that Alessandro Scarlatti's keyboard works have circulated throughout Europe and have been found even in North-American archives indicates that contemporaries favoured the views of Alexander Weimann over those of Malcolm Boyd in regard to the quality of Scarlatti's keyboard works. And Weimann's plea for this music is very convincing and eloquent. His playing is technically brilliant, and his interpretation bold, imaginative and tasteful. I am curious what future volumes will bring. We should be thankful to Weimann for taking this ambitious initiative. Listening to this music one recognizes the father of Domenico Scarlatti. Moreover this recording colours the blank pages in the history of Italian keyboard music between Frescobaldi and Domenico Scarlatti.
Johan van Veen



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