One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Keyboard Sonatas
(1715-1755?): K1 d; K3 a; K8 g; K9 d; K11 c; K24 A; K25 f˜; K27 b; K29 D; K87 b; K96 D; K113 A; K141 d; K146 G; K173 b; K213 d; K214 D; K247 c˜; K259 G; K283 G; K268 A; K380 E; K386 f; K387 f; K404 A; K443 D; K519 f; K520 G; K523 G (in order of Kirkpatrick number, not playlist order)
Mikhail Pletnev (piano)
rec. No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, October 1994.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5181862 [71:81 + 68:45]
Experience Classicsonline

I have written and talked about Mikhail Pletnev’s Scarlatti recordings so much that every renewed attempt feels like self-plagiarism. This is the kind of set that emboldens me to make the most definitive statements without flinching, the kind of performance that makes me sing its praises to anyone who will listen (or pretend to), the kind of recording that can turn me into an evangelist. So lets start with a few of those bold statements:
This double CD set is among the five classical recordings that belong in every music-lover’s collection. For classical music fans, no matter what period or style they prefer, this should simply be mandatory.
Among solo piano recitals, I have not come across anything as consistently beautiful, appealing, accessible, and delightful except perhaps Alexandre Tharaud’s Concertos italiens Bach disc on HMU 901871. Guesstimating that I have listened to this set 400 times will probably understate reality. It is as exciting now as it has been the first time I laid ears on it.
Actually, let me retract this. When I first listened to this, I ddidn't know that Scarlatti on anything else but the harpsichord was a possibility; I had grown up on the vinyls (Jecklin) of my harpsichordist uncle playing Scarlatti. When I heard the sound of a grand piano emitting from the speakers I was instantly appalled and disappointed. But once a CD is bought, it would be imprudent to just toss it aside. And back when this set came out in 1995, it was still a sizeable investment. So I listened again – and already with less disapproval, though still inner resistance. “It’s not that bad, I remember grudgingly admitting.” The third time I put this on I was sold. This simply was and is irresistible music-making, and no ideological creed is going to be able to resist it. Indeed, if anything can ever convince the ‘purist’ that Scarlatti on the piano is not a sin, it would be this marvel of a disc.
In my time as a buyer/seller for a classical department of Tower Records, the first re-issue of this disc came out on Virgin’s super-budget line of two CDs for $11. With a little promotion, it became the department’s best selling CD by factor 4, selling over 600 copies in the two years before Tower’s demise. It has converted neophytes and delighted obsessive collectors (and critics like Jed Distler) in equal measure.
Now Mikhail Pletnev is no stranger to controversy and controversial readings, as anyone who has heard his Schumann account on DG, or his recent Beethoven Piano Concerto recordings knows. But he is, at his best, a phenomenal pianist who can transcend through sheer brilliance or joyous musicality all questions of ‘authenticity’ or ‘historical correctness’. It may not always work to the composer’s advantage when Pletnev starts tinkering. Here it does.
There must be something about Scarlatti’s “original and happy freaks” (Charles Burney) that make them not only so timeless, but so susceptible to players with exuberant fantasy,  wild ideas, and a comfortably légère idea of the importance of an Urtext. Ivo Pogorelich, equally or more infamous for willful tendencies with the music in front of him, also recorded the Scarlatti sonatas and did so to stunning effect, making that his best - or at least: most un-controversially loved - album.
Under Pletnev the sonatas get an eerily modern touch, they become seductive and addictive. Music that sparkles like this is not often found, and once you stop missing the harpsichord in these works, you will find yourself listening to this performance over and over, without getting tired of it. Where Pletnev takes these pieces, they go with him, and happily. Where he prods them, they run, where he caresses them, they purr, where he jolts them, they jump. Scarlatti is terribly alive in these readings.
Do not be fooled into thinking that as a Baroque piece, this might make suitable background music for a day in the office. You will not get any work done as you listen with delight. Maria Tipo, Vladimir Horowitz, Christian Zacharias, Konstantin Scherbakov, and Ivo Pogorelich all give delightful accounts, but none match or outclass Pletnev.
This particular issue is, by my count, the third guise of these recordings – now part of the “The Gramophone Classical Music Guide/Penguin Guide Recommends …” budget series on Virgin. The look of it is cheaper than its price, with a particularly awfully tawdry design job done on this series. The notes in the fold are minimal. Virgin could not even be bothered to include the quotes through which the series justifies itself. Aesthetically this is somewhere between a wasted opportunity and offensive and it adds no value to the budget Virgin record that is, at the time of writing at least, still available at half the price.
In the end the look doesn’t matter. You need to have this CD in your collection one way or the other, as the contents are revelatory.
Jens F. Laurson


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.