Lucas Debargue’s Ambitious Scarlatti Project

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Any pianist in his late 20s recording a four-CD all-Scarlatti release for a major label is bound to attract serious scrutiny. From a purely technical standpoint, Lucas Debargue’s impeccable technique, excellent sense of rhythm, crisp articulation, and deftly turned ornaments easily place him in world-class company. One may take issue with the A major K. 405’s unbridled tempo, yet Debargue’s repeated-note phrases manage not to sound scrambled, while the G major K. 125’s scales and runs exemplify crystal clear symmetry.

Debargue must have painstakingly worked out the conversational calibration between the hands in the G minor K. 196 and the F major K. 469’s imitative writing, not to mention how he spaces the wide intervals like a vocalist in the F major K. 438 and E-flat major K. 192. You’ll also hear archly pre-planned agogic adjustments, as in the popular K. 193, alongside the direct and heartfelt lyricism characterizing the D minor K. 32, or his subtle delineation of the F minor K. 462’s syncopations.

Perhaps my focus on individual felicities of detail compensates for the relative lack of emotional variety I sense by hearing Debargue’s performances in long stretches; better to savor two or three sonatas in a single bound. Still, one must acknowledge the hard work and thought that obviously went into this project, plus the fact the Debargue includes many lesser-played works among his sonata selections.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Scarlatti Sonatas (selections): Horowitz (Sony); Pletnev (Virgin); Sudbin (BIS)

  • Lucas Debargue (piano)

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