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Music Review: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2 by Domenico Scarlatti

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American pianist Michael Lewin takes on the second batch in Naxos’ set of The Complete Keyboard Sonatas by Italian Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti. The recital is fairly evenly distributed by Kirkpatrick designation and reveals a cautious and studied hand on the part of Lewin. As I suspect will be the model for all subsequent volumes in this series, the disc opens with a bright major-key sonata, qualified as presto. In this case it is the D Major Sonata, K. 492, which Lewin infuses with a subtle momentum behind the hop-scotch melody, exuding a bright happiness. Lewin sets his performance bar high and keeps to that level throughout the recital.

Lewin performs several sonatas in common with those pianists before him. As one would suspect, he is most closely comparable with Mikhail Pletnev on sonatas K. 3 in A Minor, K. 141 in D Minor, and K. 213 in D Minor. Lewin also possesses a similar carefully considered approach as Andras Schiff on sonatas K. 27 in B Minor and K. 517 in D Minor. The more slowly paced of these sonatas (K. 213 andante) is beautifully played, displaying Scarlatti’s affinity for slower, minor-key compositions. Lewin and Horowitz share several sonatas, K. 33 D Major, K. 322 A Major, K. 146 G Major, and K. 39 A Major. Lewin consistently stays within his vigilant performance lines on all but the A Major where he plays with all of the unabashed gusto, if not brute force, of Horowitz.

Disc highlights, as with Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1, are found in minor key sonatas. Sonata K. 481 in F Minor is graciously played with a gently considered tempo, andante cantabile. Sonata K. 517 in D Minor is quite the contrast to K. 481, Lewin hitting the nitro switch while modulating through one of Scarlatti’s more complex exercises. Michael Lewin’s contribution to the Naxos Complete Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti inspires this listener the desire to hear the next installment.

Michael Lewin studied with Leon Fleisher and Yvonne Lefebure at the Juilliard School of Music. Following wins at the Kapell International Piano, Beethoven Fellowship, and Liszt Piano Competitions, he began an international career throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. Lewin has appeared with the Netherlands Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Phoenix Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Colorado Springs Symphony and the Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico. He lives in Boston, where he teaches at the Boston Conservatoire. Lewin has previously recorded for Naxos the piano works of American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes 3 Tone Pictures / De Profundis / Sonata (8.223850) and Piano Works (8.559023, 8.225163, and 2 8.559046).

Selections: Sonata in D Major, K.492/L.14/P.443; Sonata in D Major, K.492/L.14/P.443; Sonata in A minor, K.3/L.378/P.59; Sonata in D minor, K.32/L.423/P.14; Sonata in D minor, K.32/L.423/P.14; Sonata in D Major, K.33/L.424/P.130; Sonata in A Major, K.208/L.238/P.315; Sonata in A Major, K.208/L.238/P.315; Sonata in A Major, K.209/L.428/P.209; Sonata in E Major, K.20/L.375/P.76; Sonata in E Major, K.20/L.375/P.76; Sonata in E minor, K.98/L.325/P.219; Sonata in B minor, K.27/L.449/P.83; Sonata in B minor, K.27/L.449/P.83; Sonata in D Major, K.436/L.109/P.404; Sonata in D minor, K.141/L.422/P.271; Sonata in D minor, K.141/L.422/P.271; Sonata in D minor, K.213/L.108/P.288; Sonata in G Major, K.14/L.387/P.70; Sonata in G Major, K.14/L.387/P.70; Sonata in A Major, K.322/L.483/P.360; Sonata in A minor, K.109/L.138/P.290; Sonata in A minor, K.109/L.138/P.290; Sonata in G Major, K.146/L.349/P.106; Sonata in A Major, K.39/L.391/P.53; Sonata in A Major, K.39/L.391/P.53; Sonata in F minor, K.481/L.187/P.504; Sonata in D minor, K.517/L.266/P.517.

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About C. Michael Bailey

I am sanctified and Southern fried, My mama tried and daddy cried; I tell the truth 'cept when I've lied And I like my huevos on the side...