Notes and Editorial Reviews
A refreshing selection, starting with the A minor Sonata (Kk175) and its evocations of the guitar to remind us that all Scarlatti's maturer years were spent in Spain. And how apt to follow it with the extended C major Pastorale (Kk513), in which the composer returns in imagination to his homeland at Christmas time when (as Howard Ferguson's helpful note tells us) shepherds come down from the hills with their pifferari. Avoiding the over familiar, and always with a smooth progression of keys for the listener who wants to listen to the whole recital straight off, Schiff subsequently proceeds (except for the solitary G major Cantabile, Kk144) with pairs of adjacent works in the same key (major or minor) as if in support of Kirkpatrick's belief
that Scarlatti himself conceived them for performance in this way.
Schiff makes no attempt to pretend that his instrument is anything other than a present-day grand piano. Nor does he ever allow you to forget that Scarlatti had a heart—as do some worshippers at the shrine of period style. But his tone and texture are as translucent as his ornamentation is deft. Incidentally, he plays all repeats, in slower tempo sometimes adding little extra embellishments of his own the second time to enrich the text—as in the searchingly chromatic B flat Sonata (Kk544). He is never more confiding than in the E minor Andante (Kk402), even making its companion in E major (Kk403) more thoughtful than some players might in view of its allegro marking. I also much enjoyed his romantically imaginative response to the strongly atmospheric Kk516 in D minor. Always the emphasis is on what lies behind the notes rather than mere keyboard play, though it goes without saying that Schiff's nimble fingers never fail him in more extrovert prestissimo or allegrissimo contexts.
The recording, made in Walthamstow Town Hall, allows you to feel that you are sitting right at the player's side rather than far away in the stalls. But its full, close warmth is achieved without any loss of clarity. All in all a welcome change from the harpsichords which have largely taken over Scarlatti in the CD catalogue up till now.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [3/1989]
reviewing the original release of this title
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