Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
Scarlatti recitals on the piano are no longer a rarity, but really great ones still are. Since Horowitz’s groundbreaking disc, outstanding recordings have been made by Mikhail Pletnev, bursting-with-wilful fantasy, Ivo Pogorelich absorbed in his dynamic wonder-world, and Sergei Babayan, with refined insight. More recent additions to the top of the heap, many reviewed on Classicstoday.com, have come from Alexandre Tharaud, Konstantin Scherbakov, Zhu Xiao-Mei, and Yevgeny Sudbin. A very recently received new recording of 20 Scarlatti sonatas did not look particularly promising, much less like it might break into the phalanx of a dozen superior discs–rather it seemed more likely to be just another vanity recording by yet another young artist.
Except: the choice of all-Scarlatti for a first recording already suggests a musical sensibility that isn’t prim and proper mainstream. And when we get to the eating of the pudding, holy moly, what a fun album Margherita Torretta has produced! There’s a sense of absolute abandon that jumps at you from the speakers, but it’s not the thunder and bombast that make it so impressive. Rather it’s the sense of happy, unbridled enthusiasm, leaving refinement well behind in favor of frolicking. On closer listening it becomes clear: This impression of roughness is decidedly not the result of a lack of technical proficiency. The perfect, pearl-necklace-like, even runs in K. 135 serve to illustrate that point.
There’s no lingering sweetness in Torretta’s slow sonatas (i.e. K. 158), but a pragmatic, strong grip. If you remember Simone Dinnerstein’s Goldberg Variations, now think the opposite of that and exhale with relief. The stubbed staccato, the dynamic- and tempo-shifts in K. 425, are pure, lusty piano playing. There’s no iota of pretending that this is harpsichord music that needs to be transposed and played with a harpsichord mindset. That’s where Torretta comes awfully close to Pletnev, in her freewheeling nonchalance. Ditto the rudely explosive notes in K. 492, which impatiently burst out of that D major sonata.
The way she makes the various lines grow out of the popular K. 3 sonata would befit any conductor shaping a Sibelius symphony. Her downward rumbling 16th-notes plummet almost as roughly as Tharaud’s, but where the refined Frenchman continues to make the sonata a fast, contrapuntal abstract piece of art, the London-based Italian pianist takes every phrase’s last note and ties it to another melodious phrase, all to delicious effect. Nor is everything on these two discs a happy brawl: K. 98 combines robustness with wonderful delicacy and delicious little agogics that explore the generous but never tubby acoustic of the Sala Musicale Giardino, Crema, in the heart of Lombardy. In short: If you love Scarlatti and aren’t a harpsichord-hardliner, you’ll want to explore this terrific under-the-radar release!
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Pletnev (Virgin/Erato); Sudbin I (BIS); Pogorelich (DG); Tharaud (Virgin/Erato); Babayan (ProPiano/Piano Classics)
- SCARLATTI, DOMENICO:20 Keyboard Sonatas
- Margherita Torretta (piano)
- Academy - 2462