The astonishing technical variety and wide emotional range contained in Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas make each and every encounter a rewarding adventure in which the listener is seldom left untouched. This is Pierre Hantaï’s third solo disc of Scarlatti’s sonatas though only the second in his current series for the Mirare label. It contains several pieces less frequently performed than others and with which many readers may find themselves unfamiliar. The first item, in fact, is one of only seven sonatas of Scarlatti’s that is a straightforward fugue. It is an uncharacteristically didactic piece, even a shade austere compared to the rest of Hantaï’s recital which contains a kaleidoscope of colourful images. What Hantaï seems to be emphasising in his choice is that elusive, somewhat abstracted improvisatory quality present in so many of the pieces and of which the Sonata in E major K 215 provides a well-sustained example. Generally speaking, Hantaï follows Ralph Kirkpatrick’s suggestion that Scarlatti probably intended to group his sonatas into pairs or occasionally threes according to key.
Nikolai Demidenko is a celebrated piano virtuoso, considered a leading exponent of the Russian school of playing. His blend of technical brilliance and musical vision have earned him consistent raves since he first emerged on the international scene in the mid-1980s, and he has become a musical fixture in his adopted home of Great Britain, where he gained citizenship in 1995. Demidenko began playing before the age of five, learning on his grandfather's old, beaten-up piano. By the age of six, he was a student of Anna Kantor (Evgeny Kissin's teacher) at the Gnessin School of Music. An obstinate student who disliked scales and technique, Demidenko still made swift progress, and he eventually entered the Moscow Conservatory. There, he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, whom Demidenko credits with fostering his more individual qualities as a player, as well as ironing out the remaining wrinkles in his technique. Reaching the finals of both the 1976 Montreal competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow (where he played through an acute case of the flu) served as a final springboard to professional recognition.
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.
At 1st sight, they appear to have nothing in common – but disregarding the stylistic elements & a difference of 2 centuries, you soon recognize that both are in a sense, musical architects, who as piano virtuosos were equally interested in miniature forms & inspired by folk music. On the 1 hand you have Scarlatti, who, after moving to Spain in 1729 composed almost exclusively for harpsichord & integrated elements of Spanish folklore into his compositions in an experimental way; on the other hand Bartk, who boosted the recognition of the rich native Hungarian peasant songs to an independent folk art, & was also influenced by Arabic folk music.