D. SCARLATTI: Complete Keyboard Sonatas Vol. IV [Books 9, 10 & 11 – 1754] – Carlo Grante, p. – Music&Arts (5 CDs)

by | Jun 27, 2016 | Classical CD Reviews

One of the best of the piano versions of the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas.

DOMENICO SCARLATTI: Complete Keyboard Sonatas Vol. IV [Books 9, 10 & 11 – all 1754] – Carlo Grante, playing a historic Bosendorfer Imperial piano – Music & Arts CD-1293 (5 CDs) [Distr. by Naxos] [7/8/16] ****:

This is a continuation of the acclaimed series of the complete keyboard works of Scarlatti, and the only one ever recorded with the same pianist playing all of these works. As a harpsichordist myself, I naturally lean toward recordings of these 555-odd amazing little sonatas on the harpsichord, but the only complete set is the one recorded by the late Scott Ross on Erato/Warner Classics. Wanda Landowska recorded some of them with the Scarlatti Society in the 1930s. However, about half of them were recorded for the Westminster label by the equally amazing Fernando Valenti and six are available in greatly-improved sonic condition from Pristine Audio. He was the definitive exponent of Scarlatti of the time and his personality mirrored Scarlatti’s. Ottavio Dantone is also up to Vol. IV of his series of the planned complete Scarlatti Sontatas on harpsichord for the Stradivarius label, but they don’t equal the facilities of Valenti. Valenti had a way of ripping away the veil of Baroque constraints and seemed to be improvising the sonatas with no limits to their passion or expression. The many repetitions seem to strengthen the power of the music, while in some of the piano versions they actually annoy.

Although Bach may sound better on the modern piano, I don’t agree that’s true of Domenico Scarlatti. Horowitz is probably the prime example of terrific Scarlatti performances on the piano, but he didn’t do very many. Grante has been highly praised for his thoughtful virtuosity and stylistic insights, and reviewers have said that his fingerwork seems to go right to the heart of the character of each sonata.  On a few of these I can hear figurations that would sound better on the harpsichord, but in general the greater sonic abilities of the grand piano enhance these unusual little sonatas, and Music & Arts does a fine job job bringing them to the five discs (for the price of four).

—John Sunier

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