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CD Review

Domenico Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonatas, Volume 7

  • Sonata in F Major, K. 483/L.472/P.407
  • Sonata in F Major, K. 542/L.167/P.546
  • Sonata in B Flat Major, K. 360/L.400/P.520
  • Sonata in C minor, K. 40/L.357/P.119
  • Sonata in C Major, K. 422/L.451/P.511
  • Sonata in F minor, K. 238/L.27/P.55
  • Sonata in F Major, K. 17/L.384/P.73
  • Sonata in A Major, K. 500/L.492/P.358
  • Sonata in A Major, K. 114/L.344/P.141
  • Sonata in E minor, K. 291/L.61/P.282
  • Sonata in G Major, K. 328/LS.27/P.485
  • Sonata in A Major, K. 320/L.341/P.335
  • Sonata in G Major, K. 283/L.318/P.482
  • Sonata in C Major, K. 464/L.151/P.460
  • Sonata in D Major, K. 313/L.192/P.398
  • Sonata in D Major, K. 479/LS.16/P.380
Konstantin Scherbakov, piano
Naxos 8.554842
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The Naxos Scarlatti series has been a generally worthwhile project, with good performances from Jenő Jandó (Volume 3), Michael Lewin (Volume 2), Benjamin Frith (Volume 5) and others. This one, by Russian pianist Konstantin Scherbakov – who's had mixed results in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concerto discs for Naxos – is, without doubt, the finest of the series. In fact, this is the most inspired Scarlatti playing I have ever heard – and I've heard my fair share of pianists in this repertory. Naxos should engage Scherbakov's services for the rest of the cycle, titanic though that burden would be upon this gifted pianist.

In virtually every performance here, Scherbakov offers insights that elude most other pianists. To some Horowitz was king in this repertory – or Christophe Rousset, on harpsichord, or Andras Schiff, or the venerable and prolific Scott Ross. I'll take Scherbakov, though, and risk alienating legions – his artistry is that good! You can play this disc again and again and marvel at the insights on it, at the subtleties, the wit, the vibrant colors, the astonishing inventiveness of Scarlatti's keyboard writing. I can only say, get this disc if you like Scarlatti's music.

Try any sonata. The opener here, the F Major, K. 483, effervesces with all sorts of subtle delights in its lively, sunny character, while the ensuing Allegretto F Major, K. 542, is subtly serene and dreamy in its playful character. Yet another F Major Sonata, K. 17 (Scarlatti wrote 57 in this key), brims with color in its subtle accelerations and decelerations. The A Major, K. 114, exudes irresistibly colorful Spanish character in its Spirito e presto pacing, and the playful D Major closing pair, K. 313 and 479, are filled with subtle contrasts and deliciously sparkling energy.

Every performance of these sixteen sonatas is memorable, and their sound is vivid. Keith Anderson's notes are, as usual, informative and insightful, too. Need I say? – highest recommendations!

Copyright © 2005, Robert Cummings