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CD Review

Domenico Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonatas, Volume 14

  • Sonata in B Flat Major, K.47/L.46/P.115
  • Sonata in D Major, K.21/L.363/P.77
  • Sonata in G minor, K.102/L.89/P.88
  • Sonata in A Major, K.62/L.45/P.49
  • Sonata in C Major, K.242/L.202/P.243
  • Sonata in G Major, K.171/L.77/P.153
  • Sonata in D minor, K.295/L.270/P.211
  • Sonata in A Major, K.269/L.307/P.432
  • Sonata in E Major, K.162/L.21/P.162
  • Sonata in A minor, K.217/L.42/P.287
  • Sonata in G Major, K.337/L.S26/P.340
  • Sonata in C minor, K.254/L.219/P.254
  • Sonata in B Flat Major, K.155/L.197/P.208
  • Sonata in C Major, K.199/L.253/P.276
  • Sonata in D Major, K.140/L.107/P.127
  • Sonata in B Flat Major, K.229/L.199/P.139
  • Sonata in D Major, K.282/L.484/P.166
Duanduan Hao, piano
Naxos 8.572586
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In volume 14 of this Naxos series you certainly get your money's worth: over seventy minutes of fine Scarlatti, in interpretations brimming with spirit and imagination, fully sensitive to the composer's often peculiar but always compelling style. Good pianists never attempt to overpower this music with too heavy a touch or by pushing it ahead into the classical or Romantic eras. True, many Scarlatti sonatas foreshadow Chopin and other keyboard composers from the 19th century, but his style was Baroque, albeit uniquely so. He had his own formal design, which, to put it simply, divided the sonata into halves, with the exposition occupying the first half, and the development the second half.

That description may make Scarlatti's sonatas appear structurally boring, but when you listen to works like the E major Sonata, K. 162 (track 9), with its contrasting Andante and Allegro sections in the exposition, you truly appreciate the extent of his imagination as you notice how deftly he manipulates the Allegro material in the development. And you especially appreciate it in a performance this masterful.

Duanduan Hao, born in 1990 in China, is one of many talented pianists from that country. Lang Lang, Yundi Li, Yuja Wang, and Haochen Zhang are just a few of the more prominent Chinese pianists who come to mind. On the evidence here Hao may well have a major career on the concert stage ahead of him.

The B Flat Major Sonata, K. 47, opens the disc and Hao turns in a stunning performance: notes effervesce delicately as the pianist's fingers seem to dance across the keyboard with such sprightly agility in music of breathless presto pacing. In the more serious mood of the G minor Sonata, K. 102 (track 3), Hao imparts a sense of agitation and offers a range of dynamics, all to excellent effect.

In the A minor Sonata, K. 217 (track 10), Hao's dynamics again contain many shadings, while he plumbs the music for greater expressive depth in this, the disc's longest work. Lasting over eight minutes, this giant among Scarlatti's generally diminutive works yields much in Hao's hands, as he points up the darker character of this fine piece to unearth much profundity.

The B Flat Major Sonata, K. 155 (track 13), really beams with joy in Hao's performance, while the ensuing C major, K. 199, is appropriately given a more serious treatment, wherein the sad mood conveys a sense of regret. In all other pieces Hao is effective, both in his considerable technical skills and his interpretations. The sound is vivid and Keith Anderson's notes are informative. As suggested at the outset, the listener can hardly go wrong in acquiring this excellent offering.

Copyright © 2011, Robert Cummings