Crossing Borders: Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas – Luke Welch

Domenico SCARLATTI: (Crossing Borders) Keyboard Sonatas – Luke Welch – 8/18 ****:

It is a happy congruity when aesthetic judgements perfectly match animal appetites. The other day, I heard a youngster proclaim: “I could eat chocolate for every meal. It’s the best.” I feel much the same about the music of Domenico Scarlatti. His 555 two-part sonatas, written originally for harpsichord but now more commonly played on the piano, represent a perfect world of delectation and indelible beauty.

The CD under review concerns a Scarlatti recital. The musician is Luke Welch from Mississauga, Canada, which lies within the penumbra of the culturally rich and diverse city of Toronto. Mr. Welch has a number of international concert engagements to his credit after a thorough academic preparation in both Canada and Holland. His recording career has begun with the release of two discs. The first presents the more typical heavyweight solo recital works of Chopin, Schumann and Beethoven. The second seems more of a personal statement; Scarlatti is not a proving ground but suggests a special kind of refuge and artistic repose.

This recording was sponsored by the Government of Canada (If only musicians south of the border were as lucky…) and recorded in Cologne, Germany. The instrument is pleasing, but the overall soundscape is unspectacular. One thinks of 1s and 0s more than Renaissance perspective drawings. We are seated nearby but the overtones elude, and the sound lacks sonic depth.

Portrait of Domenico Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti

The technique of the young artist is perfectly equal to the modest virtuosity of these well-known pieces. Welch doesn’t offer any idiosyncrasies in the ornamentation or pedaling. Rather, he displays an elegant touch throughout and a nice feel for phrase and Scarlattian surprise. The eight pieces in this short set are among the most recognized Scarlatti sonatas. If you want to find unfamiliar ones, try a disc from a complete recording set such as Carlo Grant’s recent offering on Music & Arts, or the iconic tour of Scott Ross on harpsichord. However, if you are looking for a sampler or introduction, this disc recommends itself.

Welch’s highlight for me is the moving adagio of K. 466 in F minor, redolent of the most exquisite sadness and loss. This piece is a wonder and should be known by all lovers of music. For pianists, it is indispensable, as it poses few technical challenges. Welch’s smart and delicate reading delivers every drop of its beauty in the golden chalice.  A first-rate modern poet has reflected on this piece (and other Scarlatti sonatas) in a lyric published last year.  https://www.audaud.com/on-scarlatti/

Outstanding Scarlatti recitals have abounded in recent years. We at Audiophile Audition have saluted the many fine offerings by Hewitt, Sudbin, and Eri Mantani:  Scarlatti Sonatas, performed by Hewitt, Sudbin, Mantani.  I now am happy to commend this new Canadian artist for his thoughtful and well-executed recital. This recording seems to have the added merit of speaking to any young pianist just landed on the shores of the Scarlatti continent. For the pianists in our readership, this recording will make you dive back into your well-thumbed Scarlatti favorites score.

1. Keyboard Sonata in E Major, L. 430/K. 531
2. Keyboard Sonata in G Major, L. 349/K. 146
3. Keyboard Sonata in F Minor, L. 118/K. 466
4. Keyboard Sonata in B Minor, L. 449/K. 27
5. Keyboard Sonata in D Major, L. 418/K. 443
6. Keyboard Sonata in B Minor, L. 147/K. 197
7. Keyboard Sonata in C Major, L. 457/K. 132
8. Keyboard Sonata in E Major, L. 23/K. 380

—Fritz Balwit

Link to more info and track samples here.

 

 

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