D. SCARLATTI: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 15 = 19 Sonatas – Orion Weiss, piano – Naxos

D. SCARLATTI: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 15 = 19 Sonatas – Orion Weiss, piano – Naxos 8.573222, 79:20 (10/14/14) ****: 

This latest collation of Scarlatti sonatas might well assume the epithet “the garden of delights,” so varied and inventive the colors the composer has wrought! Orion Weiss brings a new “dispensation” to the Naxos cycle of complete Scarlatti sonatas, here with an installment that has waited for three years. Naxos has asked a series of different artists to assemble the sonatas according to their own lights: Weiss, a pupil of Paul Schenly and Emanuel Ax, opts for an abridged version of the circle of fifths. The Weiss cycle opens and closes with D Minor sonatas, then steps down a tone to C Major and then shifts to its relative A Minor, and so forth.  Typically, the arrangement of the sonatas’ tenor alternates between Spanish verve-filled pieces and those of a more meditative cast. Judicious use of pedal on his modern instrument preserves much of the Baroque affect of this recital, which emphasizes the galant, lyric character of many of the selections, although a brilliant toccata emerges from Sonata in D Minor, K. 553. Weiss, by the way, engages sonatas from various editions, some edited by alternative scholars: Alessandro Longo, Ralph Kirkpatrick, and Giorgio Pestelli.

Each auditor will find his own, preferred sonata-style over the course of eighty minutes. The Sonata in E Major, K. 216 proffers seductive arpeggios and repeated notes, often realized in “hybrid” manner between piano and pseudo-harpsichord that Glenn Gould would have admired. The Sonata in B Minor, K. 293 enjoys a bravura polyphony and easy fluency that could easily be attributed to J.S. Bach.  A panoply of (obsessive) colors and touches permeates the Sonata in E-flat Major, K. 253, with its suggestions of bird calls in trilled remote keys. The Sonata in G Minor, K. 43 has been designated by editor Emilia Fadini as the first sonata in a new complete Ricordi edition. An Allegro in 12/8, it exploits doubled notes, glissando runs, and syncopated antiphons. The delicate but plastic filigree of the Sonata in E Minor, K. 233 moves canonically, the affect Spanish, with occasional imitations of strumming.  The 1753 Sonata in F Major, K. 296, Andante, possesses a stately dignity, an Iberian equivalent of a noble ballade or slow movement. Another volatile toccata, the Sonata in C Major, K. 72, marked Allegro, likely – according to Giorgio Pestelli – reflects Scarlatti’s Venice or Rome experience. Repeated notes and rapidly shifting figurations delight us with their imaginative verve. For a moment of talented mania, try the Sonata in F-sharp Minor, K. 448, a fleet toccata from 1755 that has both hands in potent motion.

The constant fertility of imagination that defines the Scarlatti style – ‘lo scherzo ingegnoso dell’Arte – has found a skilled and canny interpreter whose fund of technical skills remains within the humble bounds of excellent and articulate taste. May the next installment follow soon!

—Gary Lemco

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