Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in D minor K1 Allegro [2.31]
Sonata in D minor K9 Allegro [3.03]
Sonata in F minor K69 Allegro [3.20]
Sonata in A major K113 Allegro [3.46]
Sonata in A flat major Allegro K127 [5.16]
Sonata in C major K132 Cantabile [6.15]
Sonata in C major K133 Allegro [3.26]
Sonata in D minor K141 Allegro [3.54]
Sonata in G major K144 Cantabile [5.14]
Sonata in C major K159 Allegro [2.12]
Sonata in A minor K175 Allegro [3.41]
Sonata in E major K215 Andante [7.17]
Sonata in E major K380 Andante commodo [4.55]
Sonata in D major K430 Non presto, ma a tempo di ballo [2.42]
Sonata in F minor K481 Andante cantabile [7.17]
Sonata in D major K492 Presto [3.29]
Sonata in C major K502 Allegro [4.03]
Sonata in G minor K30 “Cat’s Fugue” Fuga moderato [2.51]
Joanna MacGregor (piano)
rec. St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, December 1991
Joanna MacGregor is currently head of keyboard at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is a highly accomplished player of 20th century piano music including the music of Ives, Cage, Ligeti, Satie, Nancarrow and Messiaen but has also been focusing more recently on the music of Bach. This Scarlatti disc dates back to 1991 and I am not sure if it is a re-issue or if it has been issued for the first time. MacGregor deploys a slightly hard and aggressive tone for some of the sonatas, possibly as a way of underscoring their modernity and originality, but the results are highly variable. No programme notes have been included with the disc.
MacGregor played the opening D minor sonata with admirable clarity while she emphasised the sense of play in the second D minor sonata with some nice passagework and ornamentation. The F minor sonata K69 was well phrased and shaped although I thought MacGregor could have used a little more rubato to underline the harmonic shifts. The first misfire in the recital was the A major sonata K113 where the tonal and dynamic contrasts seemed rather excessive and to distort the character of the piece. The cascading triplets of the A flat major sonata K127 were dispatched efficiently although elsewhere I thought MacGregor could have allowed the music to breathe a little more.
Clara Haskil left a wonderful recording of the glorious C major sonata K132 and more recently Alexandre Tharaud has also left a superb recording. MacGregor’s interpretation of this sonata is bewildering with the opening figuration coming across in a hard and aggressive way and the subsequent passage work being played without any real musical insight. The C major sonata K133 was deft and light while the technically demanding repeated notes of the D minor sonata K141 were very even and rhythmically precise although the performance was a little prosaic compared to Argerich or Tharaud. MacGregor brought out the lyricism and refinement of the G major sonata K144 although she was unable to match Schiff for beauty of tone or finesse. The C major sonata K159 was buoyant, rhythmically vibrant and played with élan.
The A minor sonata K175 was played in an overly brash and extrovert way - compare Schiff’s more nuanced and refined interpretation. MacGregor raised her game for the opening section of the E major sonata K215 where there was some lovely refined phrasing and intimate reflection, but there was again some rather odd exaggerated phrasing at the start of the second section. MacGregor’s performance of the ever green E major sonata K380 was very good but not in the same league as Horowitz or Lipatti. The D major sonata K430 was played with lightness, grace and rhythmic buoyancy while the F minor sonata K481 had some nice contrasts between probing and reflective introspection and quiet lyricism.
The D major sonata K492 was played with gusto with MacGregor letting rip in the rapid fire scale passages. The C major sonata K502 was extrovert and upbeat with MacGregor clearly enjoying the Handelian pageantry. The recital concluded with the “cat’s fugue” where MacGregor did an excellent job in voicing the material and maintaining very clear lines in the intricate contrapuntal textures.
Altogether a very mixed recital and probably one more for MacGregor enthusiasts.
Robert Beattie 

Altogether a very mixed recital and probably one more for MacGregor enthusiasts.