Notes and Editorial Reviews
516; 517; 481; 482; 124; 125; 426; 427; 544; 545; 386; 387; 445; 546; 547; 141
Enrico Baiano (hpd, fp)
STRADIVARIUS 33844 (71:17)
Every keyboard player knows of the great debt owed to Domenico Scarlatti for his sonatas. He seems to have written 555 of them, mostly in single movements with a binary-type form that anticipates the contrasting sectional structures of what is now called “the sonata principle.” The subtitle of
this disc, “Towards Modern Pianism,” may well be accurate, for the works were meant to be performed on any applicable keyboard, here interpreted as both harpsichord and fortepiano. Here Enrico Baiano uses two of the former: one a copy of a Christian Kroll instrument from 1770, which has a slightly acidic, strident tone, and the other a French harpsichord copied from a 1733 model by Étienne Blanchet. This has a richer, more vibrant tone and seems to be used for the more technically complex sonatas. The fortepiano is a 1749 Gottfried Silbermann copy, which has a nicely sonorous and softer tone.
Of course, given the importance of these works to history, sets of the complete sonatas have been attempted fairly frequently, and on a variety of keyboard instruments (individual selections also abound in the discography). Naxos has even produced a complete set of sonatas on the modern piano with several performers, beginning back in 1999. Richard Lester’s release of all of them (including some on organ) from last year on Nimbus on nine discs is quite good. And then there is the 2005 release on harpsichord by Scott Ross on Warner Classics, and so forth, all the way back to Wanda Landowska. So, it is not as if there is a dearth of good recordings. Stradivarius, however, has chosen to enter this arena, beginning with what one presumes to be the last disc (volume 12), containing 17 of the more adventurous works. Musicologist Emilia Fadini, the apparent mastermind behind this project, notes in her summary of the project that the decision was based not on the usual order developed by Ralph Kirkpatrick, but rather by technical or other issues. These will be entrusted to various interpreters, of whom Baiano is the first. He seems to have made the decision to use the fortepiano mainly in the minor keys, and in some instances, such as the G-Minor Sonata K 426, the sound is almost Chopinesque, with a great deal of interpretive license that brings out an inherent drama. In the stiff horn-fifths of the D-Major Sonata K 96, the insistent theme seems to demand a brighter sound, and here he chooses the German harpsichord. Sometimes the harmonies are straightforward and at others they veer into territory that would not be out of place in C. P. E. Bach, such as the F-Major Sonata K 482. Here the somewhat gnarly harmonies require a more rounded tone, provided by the French harpsichord. In every instance, Baiano chooses to phrase the works carefully, exposing some rather nice hidden depths that are often glossed over or overlooked in some of the generic complete performances.
Quite frankly, I find that his interpretation is extremely
, as they might have said in 18th-century Germany, and for me this set is a notch above the other complete recording series. I like the expansive phrasing and choice of sounds produced by the different instruments, which lend the disc a considerable variety. Indeed, I found musical material that I had not noticed before through Baiano’s interpretation, which demonstrates to me at least the truth behind Scarlatti’s reputation as an innovator and model for his contemporaries. Although at this juncture only one of the volumes of the set has been released, if the remainder are of the same quality, I find that this may well prove to be the definitive interpretation. In any case, this is an excellent start, hopefully to be followed by the others in short order.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
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