Enjoyment of music is invariably enhanced by listening to
alternative versions. This may strengthen a preference for the original, or
discover one that supplants it. When music is transcribed/arranged for
instruments other than the original for which it was written, or solo music
adapted for orchestra, it takes on a whole new dimension of interest and
The review disc is a case in point: music written originally for
solo keyboard, principally harpsichord, is presented on the original
instrument along with piano, guitar, harp, and accordion. From the total
opera of more than five hundred Scarlatti Sonatas, 83 have been selected:
harpsichord (16); piano (21); guitar (13); harp (14); accordion (19).
None of the extant manuscripts for these sonatas are in the hand of
Scarlatti; only copies survive. Interestingly, only one bears an actual
name: K30 is called the Cat’s Fugue, but not by the composer. It was
presumably dreamt up by Clementi at the end of the 18th
inspired by the random intervals sounding as though a cat was walking across
the keyboard. This is a good, if not a true story.
Those familiar with the music of Scarlatti will be aware of the
three different cataloguing and numbering systems for these sonatas: Ralph
Kirkpatrick, K (1953); Alessandro Longo, L (1906); Giorgio Pestelli, P
(1967). The current set follows Kirkpatrick.
One admirable aspect of this set is that in each instance, accordion
excepted, details of the instrument(s) used on the CD are supplied. The CDs
are also produced, sonically, to the highest standards, and have added
presence on quality reproducing systems.
Sonatas K520- K535 (16)
rec. Spring 2007, Doopsgezinde Remonstrantse Kerk, Deventer, The
Pieter-Jan Belder was born in Holland in 1966 and is not only a
highly respected harpsichordist, but also a conductor. He won the Leipzig
Bach Harpsichord Competition in 2000. This CD is taken from a set of
thirty-six recorded by Belder and representing the entire Scarlatti Sonatas
In the grouping of five CDs, this disc has the advantage of
representing the original instrument for which the music was written. Astute
ears, listening on high quality reproducing equipment, will become aware
that two different instruments were employed in the recording of these 16
One less appealing aspect of the disc is that no consideration to
tempo was given in the programming, as the disc is just extracted from an
entire chronological set. All sonatas, except one, have similar tempo
markings: Allegro or derivatives. The net effect of this is to induce a
‘sameness’ when listening to the CD, sequentially, from first to
There is much to accolade and little to criticise in Belder’s
performance here. He reflects an intimate empathy for the music and embraces
all aspects of it with a very open, fresh sound, complemented by the high
sonic quality of the recording. It is the kind of performance that would
encourage investment in his complete set.
K158; K461; K124; K308; K50; K544; K135; K497; K219; K312; K109;
K319; K349; K270; K184; K147; K82; K193; K61; K262; K247.
rec. 12-14 May 2009, ‘Al Casaletto - Ancelle della
Of the four instruments presented in this set that employ strings,
the piano is the odd one out, being essentially percussive rather than
plucked. This difference may be compounded when historically informed
performance (HIP) is taken into account, and makes for an absolute minefield
when evaluating these sonatas played on the modern piano, relative to the
If one is totally preoccupied with Scarlatti’s phrasings,
abrupt rhythmic changes, his harmonic textures, a more restricted range of
sonorities and colours, and playing without a pedal, then probably a modern
piano and approach to playing Scarlatti is not acceptable. This attitude
will be strengthened by slavish preference for HIP, although a modern
instrument does not preclude a musician implementing these principles.
Some musicians have tried to bridge this gulf by utilizing period
instruments such as the square piano, a box-shaped household instrument that
flourished in England in the early 19th
century. Pianist, Joanna
Leach has recorded a number of Scarlatti Sonatas on such an instrument, with
Somewhere in the middle of all this controversy are some of the
great pianists who, partly influenced by the time during which they lived,
are less controversial and more accepted in their interpretation of these
sonatas by the pedant. Only the intrepid would be emphatic about who should
be included, but certainly Horowitz and Michelangeli have garnered favour.
One listener described Dinu Lupatti’s renditions of Scarlatti Sonatas
as: “a brief glimpse of eternity”.
Michelangeli was sensitive to the spirit of the originals and
demonstrated efforts to play them in period style. His rendition of K27 in B
Minor [2:34] is a good example of this sonata played atypically quickly,
presumably avoiding any propensity to the Romanticism displayed by some
Modern pianists are criticised for a myriad of sins when rendering
these pieces: highly personalised interpretations that disregard HIP, such
as Romanticising the slower sonatas, and excessive use of the pedal.
Born in Salerno in 1979, Michelangelo Carbonara is a musician of
significant repute. He has won 17 prizes in international piano
competitions, including the Schubert International Competition, Dortmund.
This disc is taken from a 2CD set previously issued by Brilliant Classics.
Fortunately the programming caters for fluctuations in tempo, and
this helps avoid the sense of ‘sameness’ heard on the first
disc, and not uncommon in recordings of this repertory.
This is a highly capable performance of these masterpieces for
keyboard and the reactions of those who prefer this music on piano will
centre on subtle aspects of the execution. While it is not this
reviewer’s preferred version of these sonatas, it has a lot to offer,
will please many, and offend few.
K377; K208; K209; K32; K77; K34; K291; K292; K87; K481; K476; K213
rec. 8-10 March, 1998, Jambling Studio, Italy.
Luigi Attademo born in 1972, graduated from Turin’s G. Verdi
Conservatory in 1992, gaining highest marks in a Performance degree. He has
studied with such luminaries as Angelo Gilardino, Oscar Ghiglia and David
This recording is taken from the original by Attademo (Brilliant
Those familiar with Scarlatti’s Sonatas will readily recognize
the frequent Spanish dance rhythms and folk tunes with a Moorish and
gypsy-like flavour. One may also hear castanets, and flamenco harmonies
typical of the Phrygian mode that doubtless influenced Scarlatti during his
decades on the Iberian peninsula. It may also explain, in part, the
amenability of the sonatas to being played on the guitar, and why such
adaptations have become a staple of the guitar repertory. That said, all the
sonatas are not adaptable to the guitar; some are beyond its technical
reach. In 1994 Claudio Giuliani published two volumes of Scarlatti sonatas
arranged for guitar, representing a total of 82 that he deemed to fit
reasonably within the range of the guitar.
Luigi Attademo is a fine performer whose renditions of these sonatas
offers a lot to be admired.
Although the programme gives consideration to tempi, the faster are
dominant. It also includes the only two-part Sonata: K77.
Despite the variations in tempo, sameness, experienced on other
discs of this presentation also pervades this performance. Attademo has a
robust and round tone, one more akin to playing with flesh than a nail/flesh
combination. Unfortunately he misses an important opportunity to add variety
of colour and emulate the original instrument: he does not employ
sounds closer to the bridge. One has only to listen to the
rendition of Sonata K380 by Presti and Lagoya (Nonesuch H-71161) to see how
utilization of this technique changes the whole perception of the music; a
subtle reminder of its origins is of no disadvantage.
Included also are two sonatas, K208 and K209 that are common to the
harp programme on disc 4.
This facilitates an added dimension of comparison and interest when
comparing the effects of transcribing these sonatas for other instruments.
K124; K125; K27; K208; K209; K9; K K420; K421; K420; K421; K402;
K403; K511; K213; K214
rec. 5-7 May 1997, Nederlands Hervormde Kerk, Renswoude, The
Godelieve Schrama is a Dutch harpist who plays the entire harp
repertory. She is renowned for mastery of the various playing styles down to
the minutest detail. In 1996 she was awarded the Dutch Music Prize for her
work. This is the highest distinction conferred on classical musicians in
Of the five instruments presented in this set, four rely on strings
for their operation, albeit in significantly different formats of function.
Only the guitar and harp allow the player intimate, direct contact with the
strings by both hands. While the original music could justifiably claim
supremacy of execution on the keyboard for which it was written, the harp
certainly exhibits a unique affinity and suitability for this repertory.
The programme includes two sonatas, K208 and K209 that are also
included in the guitar programme. K27 (3) and K213 (13) are also found in
the general guitar repertory, again indicating an adaptability of this music
for plucked instruments outside the original. It is also fair to say that
there are moments in K209 (5) that one could easily be under the illusion of
listening to a guitar.
Schrama is not the only player using the harp to execute these
sonatas but she does it with a style and class that is well above the
general field. Although the majority of the sonatas here are of rapid tempo,
the colours and tonal shadings of the harp evoke a sense of variety and lack
Is this true to the originals and to HIP? That’s a matter for
listeners to judge, but it sounds great and personally that’s what
music is all about, not academic excellence in sameness.
It is evident from this programme that each individual musician has
his or her own concept of appropriate tempi and of how the markings
Scarlatti provided should be interpreted.
The version here of K 209 (Allegro) is played in [5:07]; the guitar
version on disc 3 is played in [5:14]. Piano versions of K27 (Allegro) by
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli [2:47] [2:34], Emil Gilels [4:56] [4:15] and
Yevgeny Sudbin [3:42], compare with the harp version here of [4:29] and
For those who may never have heard these sonatas played on the harp,
this will provide
an interesting, enlightening and musically rewarding experience. On
the chosen instrument it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a
K6; K10; K78; K159; K52; K141; K9; K24; K98; K394; K184; K183; K519;
K288; K310; K247; K63; K107; K1
rec. 1-3 September 1997, Nederlands Hervormde Kerk, Renswoude, The
The accordion is an instrument on which one infrequently hears
Scarlatti sonatas played.
Mie Miki is again not the only musician undertaking this activity,
but one of outstanding musicality and superior technical skills.
Mie Miki was born in Tokyo in 1956. She began her studies of the
accordion at the age of four and during the intervening period has had more
than fifty solo and chamber works written for her.
From 1996 she was honorary professor at the Folkwang University,
Duisburg. Since Octobe 2003 she has been Professor of Accordion at the
Folkwang Hochschule in Essen.
Of the five instruments represented in this set, the accordion is
the only one devoid of strings. The absence of string overtones and
sympathetic vibrations results in distinctive, lucid sound here complemented
by the excellent recording; it also allows another ‘acoustic
vision’ into the texture of the music, and the various parts.
The initial reaction on hearing this CD is akin to that of hearing
Piazzolla Tangos on a recorder (Michala Petri: Our Recordings 8 226900), or
if accustomed to hearing saxophone playing jazz, the first experience of
hearing it in a classical music context: in known territory: everything
sounds unfamiliar and disorientated.
Another surprise awaits those who have not heard Scarlatti sonatas
played by Akin Unver on a multi-stringed instrument called the chapman stick
). This is further
illustration of the versatility, quality and adaptability of this music.
If your hi-fi set is of sufficient standard, the mechanical sounds
of the accordion buttons will be clearly audible. Some may find this
distracting in the same way that the fingers moving on the bass strings of
the guitar create squeaking sounds. Despite the common belief that this is a
deficiency in technique, in reality it is an intrinsic part of the guitar
and to some degree present on all guitar recordings, even by the Maestros.
This set offers a unique and spell-binding adventure into the sonatas of