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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonatas - Volume 2
Sonata in D Major Kk491 [5.53]
Sonata in D Major Kk492 [4.07]
Sonata in G Major Kk146 [3.39]
Sonata in B Minor Kk377 [3.16]
Sonata in A Major Kk24 [4.51]
Sonata in E Major Kk206 [9.26]
Sonata in A Major Kk428 [2.01]
Sonata in A Major Kk429 [4.54]
Sonata in G Major 'Capriccio' Kk63 [2.16]
Sonata in D Minor 'Gavota' Kk64 [2.00]
Sonata in G Minor Kk426 [7.09]
Sonata in G Major Kk547 [4.16]
Sonata in E Flat Major Kk474 [6.21]
Sonata in C Minor Kk58 [3.46]
Sonata in C Major Kk513 [5.31]
Sonata in F Major Kk82 [2.50]
Sonata in F Minor Kk481 [6.53]
Angela Hewitt (Piano)
rec. Beethovensaal, Hanover, 2017
HYPERION CDA68184 [79:14]

In this her second Scarlatti recording, Angela Hewitt has selected 17 sonatas by the great Italian keyboard composer and placed them in 5 distinct groups linked by key, mood and catalogue number. Some of the sonatas are fairly well known while others are unjustly neglected works and bravo to Hewitt for introducing them to the general public. She plays with an admirable degree of clarity and scrupulous attention to detail throughout conjuring a luminous, burnished tone from her trademark Fazioli. Hewitt's tempi are sometimes a little slow although this allows her to flag up inner voices, unusual harmonic shifts and other details. Hewitt's programme notes are highly informative and she wisely uses them to justify some of her artistic decisions.

Hewitt opens the first group of sonatas with the D Major Sonata Kk491 and she does a great job conjuring up the pageantry of the piece evoking the sound of trumpets and drums. Horowitz in his recording of the same piece uses a wider range of colour and dynamics and injects a greater sense of rhythmic dynamism but Hewitt's recording creates a more coherent and integrated whole and it sounds more authentically baroque. Hewitt captures perfectly the distinctive Spanish flavour of the D Major Sonata Kk492 with its strumming guitars and the passagework and scales are executed with virtuoso élan. Marcelle Meyer adopts a faster tempo and I preferred her light and sparkling handling of Scarlatti's keyboard figurations. Hewitt closes her first group with the Sonata in A Kk24 and executes the repeated notes, leaps and hand-crossing with virtuoso aplomb. I preferred Hewitt's approach in this work to Pletnev who produces a self indulgent interpretation notwithstanding the stunning pyrotechnics.
Hewitt opens the second group with Scarlatti's Sonata in E Kk206 and does a wonderful job exposing the composer's extraordinary enharmonic shifts and the dark lamenting character of the second half of the piece. Her interpretation is strikingly different from Perahia who approaches the piece in a much lighter and more mellifluous way. I preferred Perahia's overall approach in particular the way in which he contrasts the artless simplicity and charm of the opening with he more intense and dramatic material in the second half. In the Sonata in A Kk 428 I enjoyed Hewitt's handling of the imitation and the seamless balance she achieved between the hands while the companion piece in A Kk429 was highly atmospheric.

The pieces in the third group are less well known but there is much to admire in Hewitt's performance. She brings an upbeat Handelian gallantry to the Sonata in G Kk63 and heartfelt melancholy to the Sonata in G Minor Kk426 although her tone is occasionally a little dry. One of the best performances on the recording is the Sonata in G Major Kk547 where Hewitt brings a sense of mischievous Haydnesque fun to the piece while executing the toccata-like figurations with enormous finesse. I preferred her interpretation to that of Horowitz whose exaggerated dynamic contrasts distorted the overall shape of the work.

In the final two groups Hewitt explores some of Scarlatti's fugal sonatas which are all too few in number and rarely played. Her handling of the voicing is admirably clear in the Sonata in C Minor Kk58 while she seamlessly fuses the dance and fugal elements in the Sonata in F Kk82. Hewitt brings out the rustic simplicity of the Sonata in C Kk513 allowing the music space to breathe and a lightness and buoyancy to the second section with its depiction of Shepherd's pipes. Hewitt provides a more varied depiction of the pastoral vignettes than Schiff in this sonata although Schiff's ornamentation is more varied and his execution of the final Presto more dazzling.

Overall, this a major addition to the current Scarlatti discography by one of the great Baroque keyboard interpreters. Hewitt approaches each of the sonatas in a thoughtful and insightful way and the crystalline clarity of her playing is a thing of wonder. The one minor reservation I had was that the performances sometimes felt a little self conscious and this sometimes detracted from the spontaneity of the playing. However, this is a minor quibble and this recording is therefore highly recommended.

Robert Beattie



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