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".
The biggest surprise on this wonderfully exuberant and exhilarating disc comes with the very first notes: the piano tone is rich and full, worlds away from the slightly distant, musical-box tone that is often thought appropriate for recordings of Domenico Scarlatti's sonatas on a modern concert grand. But as the soundworld suggests, Tharaud is totally unapologetic about playing these pieces – all originally composed for harpsichord even though the earliest fortepianos were in circulation in Scarlatti's time – on a piano. In the sleevenotes, Tharaud says that of the four baroque keyboard composers that he has recorded so far – Bach, Couperin, Rameau and now Scarlatti – it's the last whose music is most suited to this treatment. His selection of sonatas is chosen for maximum variety, with a group in which the Spanish inflections of flamenco and folk music can be heard, others in which he gets a chance to show some dazzling technique, alongside those in which the playfulness is replaced by profound introspection.
While Ivo Pogorelich established his reputation performing mainly Romantic repertoire, his few forays into the Baroque reveal him to be an equally engaging- if not eccentric musician here as well. In quicker movements, such as the opening Preludes of the English Suites for instance Pogorelich's rhythmic control and contrapuntal clarity are simply amazing. Slower movements likewise are handled with remarkable intensity and delicacy. Pogorelich's performances of four Scarlatti sonatas concluding the program as well are wonderfully animated and knowing.
Has been one of the best musical discoveries I've had: those of Scarlatti Sonatas, the interpretation of Christian Zacharias and the MDG label. A superb full of poetry with a unique sound abosultamente crystal clear. A disc highly recommended for lovers of classical music for piano.