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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas
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on 1 June 2017
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on 2 November 2011
It has been said of Mozart's music (and no doubt of others) that 'it is better than it can be played'. Let us hope that is true of Scarlatti. Having listened for over 40 years to all kinds of Scarlatti interpretations, on piano and harpsichord, I have to say that I have never been so appalled by such performances before. Pletnev simply gets in the way - his seemingly overarching need to impress by virtuosity interferes drastically with the beauty of line and structure to the extent that to listen to it becomes an endurance test rather than a pleasure. Malcolm Bilson said recently that composers wrote for the instruments they knew. Scarlatti would not recognise much of this music, not because it is played on the grand piano, but because of the way it is played. Pletnev would do well to listen to Ivo Pogorelich's piano version in one sonata alone, the K.9 in D minor. This sonata, within the capabilities of many junior pianists, is given a sublime rendition by Pogorelich who reminds us of the beauty and art to be found within a relatively simple Scarlatti work when one looks for it. Pogorelich, although possessing a flawless technique, never forgets he is playing eighteenth-century music and never tries to make it something it isn't, as I find the case in Pletnev's bizarre and somewhat pointless, excessive rubato, and occasional extreme dynamic. It robs the work of spirituality and inner beauty: these qualities should not be sacrificed to showmanship. Horowitz described the sonatas as 'great art in small forms' and I think they should be treated with a bit more respect than I've found here.
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on 31 December 2003
Edward Greenfield, the critic, once said that the three best performers of Scarlatti on a piano were Horowitz, Pletnev, and Pogorelic. He was perfectly right. Pletnev is the only one who gives us a reasonable number of the sonatas. Gorgeous: though purists may sneer at it as being too 'romantic', I think they are wrong
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 May 2010
I'm not keen on these discs. I recognise that my lack of enthusiasm is a matter of personal taste, but I thought I'd write a review to let prospective purchasers know what to expect.

Pletnev is a magnificent pianist, his virtuosity is quite stunning here and I like hearing Scarlatti on the piano to complement my Scott Ross harpsichord set. However, I find Pletnev's interpretations hard to take. He plays these Baroque sonatas in a style more often associated with Schumann or Brahms, and that isn't what I want in Scarlatti. The grand Romantic gestures don't seem to me to go with Scarlatti's music. Much of the joy of Baroque music is its structure and texture and for me they are rather swept away by Pletnev's style, so that I find I'm hearing a lot of Pletnev and not quite enough Scarlatti.

I know that plenty of knowledgeable and thoughtful people, including other reviewers here, like this recording very much. I don't mean to sneer at it or dismiss it; as I said, this is a matter of personal taste. I just thought that I'd let you know what to expect in case your personal taste coincides with mine.
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on 18 August 2007
I found a (Gramophone) recommendation for this disc in a book I have been reading. To be honest I was a little suspicious that this may just be a show piece for Pletnev, rather than a serious interpretation of Scarlatti's work which is fair enough but not what I usually look for. My suspicions were put to rest somewhat though when I found the recording thoroughly enjoyable. I can not say however that I feel transported to the Baroque era whilst listening. Not just by the fact that a piano is used but also by Pletnev's playing, which as one other reviewer pointed out has a somewhat romantic feel to it. However, this does not spoil my enjoyment of this beautiful music and recording.
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on 21 July 2016
6 months ago if you had asked me to name composers famed for their Solo Piano Work I would have said
Chopin Liszt, beethoven schuman.
Ask me today and I would say Scarlatti.
Brilliant pieces fizzing with energy.
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on 30 April 2014
I have ignored Dominico Scarlatti’s one movement keyboard sonatas for years, thinking of them (if I did at all) as sub-Bach. A passage from Basil Bunting’s long poem Briggflats that I came across recently has made me go and seek them out. Here’s the passage:

As the player’s breath warms the fipple the tone clears.
It is time to consider how Domenico Scarlatti
condensed so much music into so few bars
with never a crabbed turn or congested cadence,
never a boast or a see-here; and stars and lakes
echo him and the copse drums out his measure,
snow peaks are lifted up in moonlight and twilight
and the sun rises on an acknowledged land.

Bunting (1900-1985) was always interested in music and his poetry was written to be read aloud to bring out its sonic qualities. Briggflatts is a long autobiographical poem written in 1965 (“the finest long poem to be written in England since T S Eliot’s Four Quartets”, according to Cyril Connolly). In live performances, Bunting used to read its five parts interspersed with recordings of Scarlatti, and modeled the structure of his poems on the music. He chose the classic 1956 George Malcolm harpsichord selection (also used in Neil Astley’s Bloodaxe recording of the poem, first issued in 1980), but I’m afraid I prefer the piano, and Mikhail Pletnev’s performances in particular, despite some criticism that he brings too much of a romantic sensibility to the pieces. However, to me they balance the two worlds perfectly – in the first track here (the D major sonata, KK 443, L418) for instance, the brittle, ornamented opening immediately brings to mind the harpsichord, but as soon as the main theme comes in (at 12 seconds), Pletnev eases into the music with finely judged pianistic legato and expansiveness.

Scarlatti suffers from the fact that there are over 550 sonatas and it’s hard to know where to start – the Malcolm and Pletnev recordings only share four common selections.
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on 12 August 2013
A highly acclaimed performance, always well recommended in the Review Literature. I would endorse all the plaudits regarding this CD -- Pletnev brings new life to this music.
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on 29 January 2005
I used this album as background music to study with throughout the dissertation phase of my MSc. It was brilliant and I am now fully converted to piano music from the baroque I used to listen to. It seems to be the combination of the composer and the technical skill of Pletnev, I am in awe of how he manages to play music which seems to require the use of at least three hands. You will not be dissapointed.
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on 12 December 2015
For me the sonatas of Scarlatti are characterised by their urgency and astringency, the constant resolution if dissonances. With his over romantic rendition Pletnev misses out on these qualities. What we are left with us all too often a classic FM formula of 'relaxing' music which, brilliant in its virtuosity and technical brilliance, is ultimately undemanding of the listener. This is nowhere more evident than in those passages where Pletnev seeks to enrich the poverty stricken imagination of Scarlatti by filling out harmonies where none were ever intended. He completely misses the point. Sparsity is just one feature of Scarlatti's genius.
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