RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Domenico SCARLATTI
(1685-1757)
Sonata K239 in F minor Allegro [3.36]
Sonata K208 in A major Adagio e cantabile [4.15]
Sonata K72 in C major Allegro [2.03]
Sonata K8 in G minor Allegro [4.54]
Sonata K29 in D major Presto [4.33]
Sonata K132 in C major Cantabile [7.38]
Sonata K430 in D major Non presto ma a tempo di ballo [3.17]
Sonata K420 in C major Allegro [4.16]
Sonata K481 in F minor Andante e cantabile [5.56]
Sonata K514 in C major Allegro [2.34]
Sonata K64 in D minor Gavotta; Allegro [1.59]
Sonata K32 in D minor Aria [2.48]
Sonata K141 in D minor Allegro [3.38]
Sonata K472 in B flat major Andante [3.34]
Sonata K3 in A minor Presto [2.31]
Sonata K380 in E major Andante commodo [5.22]
Sonata K431 in G major Allegro [0.44]
Sonata K9 in D minor Allegro [4.18]
Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
rec. LíHeure Bleue, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 30 August-3 September 2010.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6420160 [70.45]

Having recorded discs of Bach, Couperin and Rameauís keyboard music, Alexandre Tharaud now turns his attention to Scarlatti. In so doing he cements his already considerable reputation as one of the worldís foremost interpreters of baroque keyboard music. Many of the most celebrated pianists of past and present have left great Scarlatti recordings including Horowitz, Michelangeli, Pletnev, Schiff and more recently Yevgeny Sudbin. Tharaud dedicates his recital Ďin memory of Clara Haskilí who was closely associated with La Chaux-de-Fonds where this disc was recorded. She was noted for her superb Mozart and Scarlatti interpretations. Haskil left a recording of 11 Scarlatti sonatas including the glorious C major sonata K132 which Tharaud commits to disc here.

Tharaud brings all of the resources of the modern grand piano to Scarlattiís music and is unapologetically pianistic in his approach. He deploys a ravishing range of tone colour to the works, exquisitely executed ornamentation and a virtuoso technique. In the first sonata in the recital (K239 in F minor) he brings out the Spanish dance and flamenco elements: one can hear the click of the castanets and the Spanish dance. Tharaud also creates wonderful Spanish guitar effects in the ensuing G minor sonata K8 which punctuate breathtakingly embroidered contrapuntal lines.

Michelangeli left an electrifying performance of the virtuoso D major sonata K29. Tharaudís performance rivals that one in terms of energy, flair and momentum and in his playful articulation of the intricate passage work, hand crossing and handling of the difficult scale passages. He immediately follows this with the wonderful C major sonata K132 and produces an immaculately crafted recording that is a worthy successor to Haskil. Tharaudís recording is rather more free and romantic than Haskilís very classical interpretation. He adds some additional ornamentation which is beautifully judged and brings out the inner voices in a very musical and emotionally engaging way.

Tharaudís way with the D major sonata K430 is beautifully nuanced with some finely judged rubato and rhythmic subtlety. He deploys the full dynamic and expressive range of the concert grand to the ensuing C major sonata K420 and the intricate passage work is despatched deftly and with ease. In the D minor sonata K64 Tharaud produces a perfectly judged courtly gavotte and follows this with the somber and introspective D minor sonata K32.

Tharaud shows us more pianistic fireworks with the D minor sonata K141 with its technically demanding quick-fire repeated notes. This is one of Martha Argerichís favourite virtuoso show-pieces and she often plays it as an encore in concerts and recitals. Tharaud rightly adopts a more restrained tempo than Argerich but deploys a greater range of tone colour and expression.

Full marks to Tharaud for electing to play the ubiquitous E major sonata K380 which has been recorded both by Horowitz and by Clara Haskilís fellow countryman, Dinu Lipatti. Tharaudís performance is beautifully manicured and expressive and the ornamentation is exquisite. The recital concludes with the D minor sonata K9 which is artfully judged and playful with some delicate ornamentation and deft rubato.

Overall, this is an absolutely superb piano recital and a glorious addition to the Scarlatti discography.

Robert Beattie

Absolutely superb Ö a glorious addition to the Scarlatti discography.