Believe it or not, this thirteenth volume of recordings of Scarlatti sonatas is only barely past the halfway mark to the complete traversal; it is expected to take a total of twenty-five CDs to complete the lot. Naxos elected to use a different pianist for each of the CDs and thus we have been introduced to a number of fine mostly young pianists including Soyeon Lee, Colleen Lee, Eteri Andjaparidze, and Gerda Struhal, as well as hearing some more established artists like Konstantin Scherbakov and Benjamin Frith. Now comes another youngster and another Asian woman (like the two Lees): Chu-Fang Huang. She is a native of China, studied at Curtis and Juilliard and was a finalist in the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition and winner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition. That said, this disc is not, in my opinion, one of the highlights of the series. Everything is played with rhythmic precision and infallible technique. But something is missing. The playing sounds rather mechanical, a real hazard in Scarlatti. And Huang almost entirely ignores Scarlatti's playfulness, his humor. Her approach works just fine in the moto perpetuo sonatas like the one in G minor, K.71/L.81/P.17but really misses in others, e.g. the D Major, K.164/L.59/P.274. Further, the slower sonatas such as the D Major, K.534/L.11/P.538 tend to be a bit bloodless. One can almost hear her holding back as if afraid to commit any romantic solecisms and in the process the feeling drains out of these slower sonatas.
I have a hunch that Ms Huang is by nature better suited to the big Romantic works and I note on her agent's website that she has played the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto with the Detroit Symphony. Now THAT I would have wanted to hear.