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Music Review: Domenico Scarlatti Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 9

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Naxos Records' newest addition to its ongoing survey of Domenico Scarlatti's complete piano sonatas is a carefully considered and intentionally paced affair. Rather than opening the recital with a gang-buster presto, pianist Francesco Nicolosi chooses Scarlatti's D minor sonata, K. 52, marked something considerable less than allegro. Nicolosi approached the piece as Daniel Barenboim did Bach's Goldbergs in 1991, slowly, thoughtfully, and romantically.

This minor key composition (K. 52) was found in the fourteenth of the Scarlatti's Venice albums of 1742. It was one of the master's earliest slow movements, already betraying a fully formed vision and sound. It is one of several minor key compositions populating this recording. All reveal Scarlatti as a master of pre-Romantic musical thought, an ability to tap into the dark chocolate soul of minor keys to pull out the rich decadent center, exposing it for the musical delight that it is.

Nicolosi proves equally adept at interpreting these difficult pieces as illustrated in his performances of The Sonata in D minor, K.77 and The Sonata in D minor, K.176. The pianist treats these pieces respectfully, never turning up the heat enough to melt them. Nicolosi justifies every nuance and pedal depression with a palpably integrated execution full of pathos and light.

The Sonatas in G major, K.79 and C major, K.170 both show spontaneity in Nicolosi's performances revealing the multidimensional character in his playing. Nicolosi, perhaps better any other contributor to the series, captures the spirit of Horowitz's famous interpretation shining with that master's determination and dedication. This is a wholly satisfying set as all of the releases have been.

Selections: Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K.52/L.267/P.41; Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K.77/L.168/P.10; Keyboard Sonata in G major, K.79/L.80/P.204; Keyboard Sonata in G minor, K.111/L.130/P.99; Keyboard Sonata in C minor, K.139/L.6/P.126; Keyboard Sonata in C major, K.170/L.303/P.164; Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K.176/L.163/P.163; Keyboard Sonata in D major, K.277/L.183/P.275; Keyboard Sonata in A major, K.344/L.295/P.221; Keyboard Sonata in C major, K.340/L.105/P.420; Keyboard Sonata in D major, K.388/L.414/P.370; Keyboard Sonata in C major, K.398/L.218/P.493; Keyboard Sonata in A major, K.456/L.491/P.377

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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...
  • The name of the pianist of this Scarlatti CD is Francesco Nicolosi not Nicholai

  • bliffle

    The Scarlatti KB sonatas are endlessly interesting and entertaining as well. I think there are 600 of them. Many years ago some fellow recorded them all, via computer, in MIDI form, and that was a lot of fun to play on your earbuds while working.