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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas Volume 4
Parma Books 9-11 (1754)
Carlo Grante (Bosendörfer Imperial Piano)
rec. Studio Glanzing, Vienna, March 2013
MUSIC AND ARTS CD-1293 [5 CDs: 347:30]

Carlo Grante’s monumental voyage through Domenico Scarlatti’s complete keyboard sonatas has reached volume four. In the first release, reviewed here, I wrote that ‘for a single overview, beautifully played, and recorded, the first box in Music & Arts’ series is profoundly impressive.’ Fortunately, subsequent releases have not fallen from the heights established by the inaugural set and the latest volume is no different. The Bösendorfer Imperial, recorded in Vienna’s Studio Glanzing, sounds as sumptuous as ever and Grante’s musical instincts are once again alive to every shift in Scarlatti’s prismic imagination.

This edition covers Parma Books 9 to 11 inclusive, all composed in 1754. Once again, as before, he is sensitive and has a fine ear for colour and dynamics. He is also attentive to ornaments, plays trills and repeated figures with clarity, evenness and poise. The variously strongly and weakly accented passages of Parma 9:5 are augmented by telling use of the melo-bass whilst the puckish changes of mood in 9:8 are projected with great élan. Grante never misses the opportunity to allude to imitations in Scarlatti’s writing, such as guitar and possibly violin evocations in 9:10, nor in bringing out the festive tarantella-like brio in these infectiously addictive little sonatas. The two voices in the fanfare 9:18, a sprightly allegro, are hardly less engaging.

The toccatas are well characterised and those puckish, odd elements that are so much a part of Scarlatti’s musical imagination – try the whimsical breaks in the line of 9:27 – are stressed but not overdone in such a way as to rob them of freshness. Whether it’s the pellucid nature of the long (in the context) 9:29 or the pastoralism of 10:4, each receives its proper character. And even in sonatas that rely on technical ballast, such as the arpeggios of 10:7, Grante ensures that the music doesn’t come across as mere technique. Things are always alive.

Whether it’s the hunting horns of 10:11, the military reveille calls of 10:15, the intensely expressive 10:17, the charming Arcadia of the ravishing 10:27, the tenacious 11:5 or the virtuoso flourishes of the two-voiced 11:13 Grante is at the top of his form. And where Scarlatti wrong foots expectations through sheer wit, Grante proves equal to the demands of conveying it, such as 11:25.

Complete with his own extensive and outstanding notes and another top of the range recording, this is every bit the equal of the previous three volumes.

Jonathan Woolf



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