“Duende” – D. SCARLATTI Harpsichord Sonatas; “Pandora’s Box” Sampler of Skip Sempé & Capriccio Stravagante [TrackList follows] – Skip Sempé & Olivier Fortin, harpsichords/ Capriccio Stravagante – Paradizo (2 CDs)

by | Mar 21, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

“Duende” – D. SCARLATTI Harpsichord Sonatas; “Pandora’s Box” Sampler of Skip Sempé & Capriccio Stravagante [TrackList follows] – Skip Sempé  & Olivier Fortin, harpsichords/ Capriccio Stravagante – Paradizo PA 9003 (2 CDs), 63:26, 73:11 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

(Other performers in Capriccio Stravagante: Julien Martin, Josh Cheatham, Olivier Fortin, Sophie Gent, Doron Sherwin, Julien Léonard, Judith van Wanroij, Benjamin Alunni)

On the first CD of this two-CD set are a fine collection of highlights from ten releases by Capriccio Stravagante. In the unfolding note booklet a page, including a photograph, is given over to every two tracks on the CD. There are airs for the flute, Renaissance madrigals, two Scarlatti Sonatas, two Purcell Fantazias, two Pieces de Clavecin by Rameau, and two viol pieces by Marais and St. Colombe. Sempé created not only the adventurous repertory of these selections but also the CD label itself. I especially enjoyed the Scarlatti Sonatas, one of which is for two harpsichords, but more on that presently.


1. Paduan – Capriccio Stravagante
2. Heigh Ho Holiday – Capriccio Stravagante
3. Ancor Che Co’l Partire
4. Doulce Memoire
5. Allegro
6. Andante
7. In Nomine Of Six Parts – Capriccio Stravagante
8. In Nomine Of Seven Parts – Capriccio Stravagante
9. La Pantomime
10. L’Enharmonique
11. Chaconne Raportee – Josh Cheatham
12. Prelude In C Minor – Josh Cheatham
13. Fatal Amour, Cruel Vainqueur – Capriccio Stravagante
14. Qu’un Coeur Est Prevenu Quand Sa Flamme Est Extreme – C. S.
15. Largo In A Minor, BWV 529
16. Sarabande In A Minor, BWV 807
17. Rejouissance – Sophie Gent
18. Allegro – Julien Martin
19. Les Etoiles
20. La Marche Des Scythes 


These 17 tracks are, I feel, the most exciting performances of the Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas I have ever heard, even surpassing the original attempt to record all 550-odd of them (new ones being discovered all the time) for Westminster by Fernando Valenti. (It was him and the new Challis harpsichord we got at the University of Iowa that started my love affair with the harpsichord.) I was initially disappointed to find, after seeing the performer list for this CD to include two harpsichordists, that only on four of the 17 tracks are there two harpsichords, the rest are solos by Skip Sempé. However, they are all superb, and Sempé’s choice of selections based on his favorites closely parallels my own. He says that those on which he chose to use two harpsichords have the second instrument act as a sort of basso continuo for the first, and that it amplifies the sound of the first in a similar manner which electronics were able to achieve later on. They both perform on harpsichords made by Bruce Kennedy in the 1985 after 18th century French models, although Sempé also uses on some tracks one made after a 17th century Italian original by Martin Skowroneck. The 16-ft. stop comes in handy for some of the flamenco-ish rhythms in some of the Scarlatti Sonatas. I’m sure I will be listening to this CD frequently in future while the other of my Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas CDs and LPs sit idle.

In the interview in the note booklet, Sempé is asked what instruments Scarlatti imitates in his Sonatas?:  He replies: guitars, castanets, string orchestras, hunting horns, trumpets, flutes, oboes, bassoons, bagpipes and mandolins.


1. Andante in E K206
2. Allegro for 2 harpsichords in D K443
3. Andante in f K462
4. Andante in F K256
5. Sonata In F, K6
6. Andante e Cantabile, Sonata in f K481
7. Presto for 2 harpsichords in C K423
8. Pastorale in C K513
9. Allegro for 2 harpsichords in C K502
10. Sonata In B Minor, K87
11. Allegro, Sonata in E-flat K193
12. Allegro, Sonata in g K8
13. Allegro, Sonata in E-flat K253
14. Cantabile, Sonata in D K490
15. Prestissimo, Sonata in d K517
16. Presto. Sonata for 2 harpsichords in D K492
17. Aria, Sonata in d K32

—John Sunier

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