A fascinating collection of familiar Scarlatti originals mixed with extremely rare transcriptions of Scarlatti's originals is offered on this CD.
1. Sonata K.135 in E
2. Scarlatti/Tausig: Sonata K.12 in G Minor
3. Sonata K.247 in C# Minor
4. Scarlatti/Friedman: Gigue K.523 in G
5. Sonata k.466 in F Minor
6. Scarlatti/Tausig: Sonata K.487 in C
7. Sonata K.87 in B Minor
8. Gieseking: Chaconne on a theme by Scarlatti (Sonata K.32)
9. Sonata K.96 in D
10. Scarlatti/Tausig: Pastorale (Sonata K.9) in E Minor
11. Sonata K.70 in Bb
12. Scarlatti/Friedman: Pastorale K.446 in D
13. Sonata K.380 in E
14. Scarlatti/Tausig: Sonata K.519 in F Minor
15. Sonata K.32 in D Minor
This disc contains some of the most phenomenal finger dexterity ever recorded, and I remind my readers that I worked closely with such technical wizards as Jorge Bolet, Earl Wild, and Rian de Waal; thus I do not make such a statement lightly. Joseph Moog's technique is an art unto itself, and when combined with his musicianship, the results are astounding.
We must remember that Scarlatti himself referred to the first publication of his works as Exercises. The appellation "Sonata" came later. Scarlatti was a true virtuoso of the keyboard, and these works are the product of a man who reveled in his ability and who enjoyed demonstrating to the world just how great was his technique. No one can deny that the brilliance of most of these pieces was designed to dazzle audiences.
There have been many fine recordings of most of the original Sonatas. So it is the offering of transcriptions that makes this disc a "must-have."
The Tausig Pastorale is the least rare of the transcriptions on this disc. My late friend Charles Rosen would on occasion ask me to play the Josef Hofmann recording of this work. Just before the runs in thirds, Charles would whisper "Listen...! Listen...!" Then Charles would go to my piano and play that passage 3 or 4 times, imitating Hofmann's sound, and proud that he could do so. Along with Hofmann, other golden age greats recorded this piece, including Rachmaninoff and Ignaz Friedman, one of the other transcribers featured on this program. Mr. Moog chooses a tempo slightly slower than the old-timers, but his tempo is certainly in keeping with the Allegretto tempo instruction.
The other Tausig transcriptions of Scarlatti are played with great energy and vitality and Mr. Moog's deft handling of the scores belies the tremendous ability required to present such performances.
Whereas the Tausig transcriptions offer brilliant "illuminations" on the virtuosity of the originals, they do not stray far from the tonal territory and even the open sonorities of the originals.
That is not the case with the Gieseking Chaconne. Containing 21 variations and a coda, this work ventures into tonalities that certainly would have shocked Scarlatti. This work is based on Sonata K.32 in D minor, which lends itself perfectly to the transformations put upon it by Gieseking. I am strongly reminded of Godowsky in this work, and I consider this work to be a small masterpiece. The CD is worth buying for this work alone! This is one of the relatively few works that makes this listener want it to continue: at 6:47, it is simply too short! Joseph Moog works magic with this piece. He coaxes the most velvety sounds from the piano and his performance is hypnotic.
My favorite Scarlatti Sonata, K.446 in D, is the source of another amazing discovery, the Pastorale by Friedman. Once again I am reminded of Godowsky. This work is treacherously difficult; yet, to the casual listener, it sounds as if a child could play it. The fact that almost no one plays this work is a testament to its difficulty, because it is so lovely that many people would want to hear it. Joseph Moog negotiates the wicked stretches and voicings with ease. Friedman's "Gigue" transcription is full of exciting and dangerous leaps, which are easily tamed by Joseph Moog.
As for the original Scarlatti works on this disc, there are some of the popular favorites, such as the elegant K.380 in E and the virtuosic K.96 in D, whose arsenal of leaps, thirds, runs, trills and repeated notes is fired off with superhuman mastery by Mr. Moog, whose finger independence and accuracy are astounding. And the program closes with the quiet K.32, the source of Gieseking's Chaconne, for a perfect ending.
Everything about this CD is first-rate. The acoustics and sound engineering are wonderful, capturing Joseph Moog's power, beauty, and finesse that he creates with the marvelous instrument used in this recording. And the piano is in tune for each track. The informative liner notes are by Jeremy Nicholas, Godowsky specialist. As someone who dabbles in photography and graphic arts, I was impressed by the creativity of the cover design.
Finally, when I first received this disc, I put it into my player with the intention of "sampling" it before seriously listening to it at a later time. I was not able to pull myself away from this disc until I had listened to it completely for three consecutive times!
Thanks to the incredibly knowledgeable Donald Manildi, Curator of the International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland, for providing me with materials necessary for this review.