Since the very dawn of the compact disc era, Ralph Kirkpatrick's seminal recordings of Domenico Scarlatti have mainly been conspicuous only by their absence from the active catalog. It's hard be sure just why, as all along listeners and reviewers alike have been requesting their return. Kirkpatrick's Bach has been reissued here and there, along with some oddities, including a live, all twentieth century recital Kirkpatrick performed in 1961, released on Music and Arts. But of the Scarlatti, nothing - how could the man who put the "K." in Scarlatti go neglected; were not his performances once considered the acme in Scarlatti played on the harpsichord?
As one of the world's foremost interpreters of Baroque keyboard music on the modern piano, Angela Hewitt has established a fine reputation for impeccable playing and fresh musical insights. Listeners who cherish her award-winning recordings on Hyperion of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach have already experienced her exquisite playing, and they will be delighted to hear this selection of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, Bach's contemporary and an innovator whose compositions influenced the development of the Classical sonata. Some of these selections are well known, particularly the Sonata in C major, Kk159, the Sonata in D major, Kk96, and the Sonata in E major, Kk380, which are often anthologized, though Hewitt hasn't packed this disc with greatest hits (with 555 sonatas to choose from, there are many less familiar that deserve attention). Hewitt's performances are thoughtfully phrased, polished in tone, and rhythmically precise with a modicum of rubato, and she is alert to the subtleties that make this music so beguiling. Hewitt recorded these 16 sonatas in the Beethovensaal in Hannover, where she made her first Bach recordings for Hyperion 20 years previously, and the acoustics are nearly ideal for her style.
Baroque powerhouse Domenico Scarlatti – son of the great Alessandro Scarlatti and born in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friderich Handel – wrote an enormous 555 keyboard sonatas. These were mostly to be performed on the harpsichord, although several sources suggest that he may have also written some for the fortepiano at the Spanish court, where he was employed from 1733. The universal appeal of these sonatas – containing Scarlatti’s trademark influence of Iberian folk music and dances – is such that they have been pushed beyond the boundaries of the intended instrument, and thus the recording also boasts performances of selected sonatas on the harp and accordion, bringing these wonderful sonatas into the 21st century.
Recordings of the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti come and go. Reissues of those made in Paris in the 1930s by Wanda Landowska seem to be always with us. A recent reissue of 26 of them quickly earned a rarely-bestowed rosette in a prestigious CD guide, and the comment, "her playing has more character than that of most modern players put together; it is electrifying in its sheer vitality and imagination".