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Music Review: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3 by Domenico Scarlatti

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Hungarian pianist Jenö Jandó may rightly be proclaimed the utility infielder of classical piano. Jandó has on his resume all of Mozart's piano sonatas and piano concertos, every Beethoven sonata, every Haydn sonata, both volumes of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier as well as Bartok's complete piano concertos. He is currently recording Schubert sonatas and Bartok's complete piano music for Naxos. With this kind of output, one might surmise that maestro Jandó would have recorded the complete Scarlatti sonatas himself, which, if Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3 is indication, would have been just fine.

A byproduct of having such a broad repertoire is often a conservative approach to the letter (or note) of the music. Jandó is no exception to this. His Scarlatti is played on piano as the listener would expect to hear it on the harpsichord. In fact, so tart and precise is the sound in the opening four sonatas that they almost sound as if they were performed on the immediate precursor to the modern piano (Hammerklavier), the fortepiano. Delightful is Jandó’s playing on the K. 261 B Major and K. 70 B-Flat Major sonatas, where his precise approach makes the piano sing (no pedals here). He achieves pounding fortissimos and bell-like pianissimos with equal aplomb.

Jandó’s conservative approach in no way dampens the musical personality beneath. Jandó has a beautifully radiant tone and facility. He skips effortlessly through the K. 444 D Minor sonata with its allegrissimo pace. On perhaps the finest performance on the disc, Jandó takes the K. 54 D Major sonata from Horowitz, making it a delicate elegy of memory and longing. Jandó’s thought is crystalline and his performance as delicate as smoke. This is a sublime five minutes of music. The K. 203 E Minor sonata is beautifully modulated from figure to figure, through one of Scarlatti’s more complex compositional structures. Jandó carefully takes his time approaching what Kirkpatrick called “the crux” before further elaborating the performance after it. Jandó’s sense of balance never allows him to hurry, producing performances of uniform rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic density.

Jenö Jandó was born in Pecs, in southern Hungary, where he was taught piano by his mother. This was followed by formal study at the Liszt Academy, under the tutelage of Katalin Nemes and Paul Kadosa. Jandó experienced several competition successes including the Cziffra, Ciani, and Beethoven Piano Competitions. Jenö Jandó was one of the first artists to record for Naxos when it was still a young company. At the time, the producers wanted to release some of the better-known Beethoven piano sonatas. After hearing Jandó’s demo tape, they chose him for the whole lot… and a lot, lot more.

Other releases in this series:

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2

Selections: Sonata in G major, K.201/L.129/P.252: Vivo; Sonata in D minor, K.10/L.370/P.66: Presto; Sonata in B major, K.261/L.148/P.300: Allegro; Sonata in B flat major, K.70/L.50/P.21; Sonata in D minor, K.444/L.420/P.441: Allegrissimo; Sonata in D major, K.54/L.241/P.147: Allegro; Sonata in A major, K.537/L.293/P.541: Prestissimo; Sonata in F sharp minor, K.447/L.294/P.191: Allegro; Sonata in E major, K.46/L.25/P.179: Presto; Sonata in A major, K.212/L.135/P.155: Allegro molto; Sonata in E minor, K.203/L.380/P.96: Vivo non molto; Sonata in G major, K.105/L.204/P.90: Allegro; Sonata in C minor, K.126/L.402/P.128; Sonata in F major, K.525/L.188/P.529: Allegro; Sonata in F minor, K.69/L.382/P.42; Sonata in D major, K.119/L.415/P.217: Allegro

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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...