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Music Review: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 8 by Domenico Scarlatti

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Naxos’ most recent pianist tapped to the projected 35-Volume Complete Keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti is the talented Soyeon Lee. After having lauded the volumes by Jeno Jando, Evgeny Zarafiants and Konstantin Scherbakov, and the fact the Slavic pianists have a sensitive affinity for Scarlatti, I must note that the young Korean Soyeon Lee blasts in from the outer regions to debut on the label with the Scarlatti Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 8. To consider this recording auspicious is a British understatement.

The best global description of Lee’s Scarlatti is balance. The sonic atomic and subatomic structure of her playing is in perfect harmony. Her pianism is exactly that. Those who look for the 1955-Glenn-Gould harpsichord effect on the piano need to look elsewhere. Soyeon Lee turns in a relaxed and perfectly comfortable piano performance of a demanding and unforgiving repertoire. Graceful.

Lee is not in the least bit shy in her playing or her choice of Sonatas, having gleaned five from the songbook of Vladimir Horowitz. Outstanding among the five is the F Minor Sonata, "K. 466", marked andante. This minor key composition has perhaps its only peer in the Scarlatti corpus in the E Minor Sonata, "K.402" in both its charm and pathos. Lee brilliantly juxtaposes the elegantly paced and ornate F Minor Sonata against the galloping B flat Major Sonata, "K. 441" which sounds so modern and universal to have been composed between Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Scott Joplin.

Lee makes the D Major Sonata, "K. 96" sing with her musicality and unerring sense of balance. She sports an aggressive left hand as did Horowitz with greater tonal modulation in repeats. The same may be said for the A flat Major Sonata, "K. 127", with a more balanced left hand than Horowitz resulting still in a muscular performance of the piece with more vivid tonal pastels and striking tonal primary colors. Everything about this fine disc endorses it for many pleasant listenings.

At the time of this recording, Soyeon Lee was a 26-year-old piano powerhouse with a bevy of bona fides under her belt. Juilliard educated, having studying with Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald. Lee gathered top prizes at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Cleveland International Piano Competition, and the Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition. In 2004 the pianist made her Lincoln Center recital début at Alice Tully Hall as the Juilliard School’s prestigious William Petschek Piano Début Award winner. While at Juilliard, Lee won the Rachmaninoff Concerto Competition as well as two consecutive Gina Bachauer Scholarship Competitions, and was awarded the Helen Fay Prize, Arthur Rubinstein Prize, and the Susan Rose Career Grant.

Other releases in this series include:

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 4

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 5

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 6

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 7

Sonata in A major, K.181: Allegro; Sonata in E major, K.496: Allegro; Sonata in C major, K.420: Allegro; Sonata in F minor, K.466: Andante; Sonata in B flat major, K.441: Allegro; Sonata in B minor, K.87; Sonata in D major, K.96: Allegrissimo; Sonata in G minor, K.426: Andante; Sonata in A flat major, K.127: Allegro; Sonata in F minor, K.462: Andante; Sonata in A minor, K.382: Allegro; Sonata in C major, K.485: Andante cantabile; Sonata in A major, K.101.

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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...