Naxos’ Scarlatti Cycle: Vol.16

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

With Volume 16, Duanduan Hao becomes the first pianist to appear twice in Naxos’ ongoing Scarlatti sonata cycle. I enjoyed much of his work in Volume 14, and it seems that the young artist’s style is evolving positively, for the most part. In the opening A major K. 280 sonata, for example, Hao leans into the second theme’s chords in order to bring out the clashing dissonances, and he also articulates the C major K. 133’s embellishments with stunning focus. Hao shapes the modest little B-flat K. 440 Menuet simply and tastefully, although I still prefer Wanda Landowska’s freer, jazzier phrasing.

If Scott Ross brings more urgency and biting accentuation to the D major K. 511, Hao’s relatively restrained interpretation still is a plausible alternative. Yet the F minor K. 467 seems a trifle square, and grows thicker as it progresses; no match for Christian Zacharias’ crisper animation and rounder sonority. Similarly, Hao’s proficient literalsm in the G major K. 280 pales next to Horowitz’s imaginative tonal shadings, sultry characterization, and incisive rhythm.

Was the pause between phrases at 2:23 in the F major K. 541 deliberately drawn out, or is it an editing miscalculation? But the motoric D major K. 336 stands out for Hao’s well-calibrated balances and dynamic organization. Now that Hao gets a second crack at a Naxos Scarlatti volume, I hope that pianists responsible for some of the series’ finest installments such as Konstantin Scherbakov and Orion Weiss will also be invited back.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Scarlatti Sonatas (selections): Horowitz (Sony), Pletnev (Virgin Classics)

    Sonatas K. 118; 133; 200; 231; 260; 280; 308; 336; 362; 390; 417; 440; 458; 467; 488; 511; 528; & 541
  • Duanduan Hao (piano)

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