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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas - Volume VI
Parma Book 15 (1756-1757)
Venice (1742 and 1749)
Miscellaneous sources
Carlo Grante (piano)
rec. 2018, Bösendorfer’s Selection Centre, Weiner Neustadt, Austria
MUSIC AND ARTS CD-1299 [7 CDs: 480:39]

Italian pianist Carlo Grante has now reached Volume VI, the final volume in his epic traversal of the Scarlatti keyboard sonatas, and reading the positive and encouraging reviews of the previous volumes (Volumes 1 & 2 ~ Volume 4 ~ Volume 5) has fired-up my enthusiasm for my first encounter.

In sum total the Grante journey consists of 35 discs of sonatas in date of publication order. The pianist has now reached the final Parma Book 15 published in 1757, which contains forty-two sonatas (volumes held in the Palatina National Library at Parma, Italy). In addition, the release includes sonatas published in Venice in 1742 and 1749. The last two tracks of CD 5 and CDs 6 and 7 consist of miscellaneous sources. Grante performs on a beautifully rich sounding Bösendorfer 280 Vienna Concert Piano, enhanced by the responsive acoustic and ambience of the Bösendorfer’s Selection Centre, Weiner Neustadt, Austria. The pianist’s annotations are scholarly and thorough and provide welcome background and context to the music performed.

Whether you prefer Scarlatti sonatas on the harpsichord or piano is a matter of personal taste. My collection holds wonderful performances on the harpsichord by Scott Ross (complete cycle on Erato, originally released in 1988 and later re-released on Warner Classics), Colin Tilney, Pierre Hantaï, Trevor Pinnock and Ralph Kirkpatrick. On the piano, versions include Vladimir Horowitz, Lucas Debarge (review), Mikhail Pletnev, Ivo Pogorelich and Angela Hewitt. Apparently, Carlo Grante’s piano cycle holds the distinction of being the first recorded by a single soloist. At the end of the day, I do feel that the piano affords greater opportunity for more subtle nuance and opens up a greater dynamic range.

Grante commands a remarkable and daring technique, with some of the cleanest articulation imaginable. Throughout, I was won over by his nicely judged tempi, a fine array of dynamic contrasts and a colourful portfolio of shadings, with each sonata stylistically consonant. His approach and musicianship are second to none.

Here are a few examples of sonatas that particularly grabbed my attention. There’s some spectacular finger work in the quick fire K39 in A major and K517 in D minor. K141 rivals Argerich's speed, accuracy and excitement. Crisp articulation defines the avian delicacy in K516 in D minor and the sparkling ornamentation in the G major K521. K531 brims over with unbounded joy. K534 and K536 are both marked Cantabile and sound almost improvised. Sample the probing Grave introspection of the lengthy K81, with its alternating Grave-Allegro sections.

By all accounts it’s been a monumental achievement and a dedicated labour of love, having begun with Volume 1 as far back as 2010. I hope one day to have the opportunity to enjoy the previous volumes.

Stephen Greenbank

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