Nikolai Demidenko is a celebrated piano virtuoso, considered a leading exponent of the Russian school of playing. His blend of technical brilliance and musical vision have earned him consistent raves since he first emerged on the international scene in the mid-1980s, and he has become a musical fixture in his adopted home of Great Britain, where he gained citizenship in 1995. Demidenko began playing before the age of five, learning on his grandfather's old, beaten-up piano. By the age of six, he was a student of Anna Kantor (Evgeny Kissin's teacher) at the Gnessin School of Music. An obstinate student who disliked scales and technique, Demidenko still made swift progress, and he eventually entered the Moscow Conservatory. There, he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, whom Demidenko credits with fostering his more individual qualities as a player, as well as ironing out the remaining wrinkles in his technique. Reaching the finals of both the 1976 Montreal competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow (where he played through an acute case of the flu) served as a final springboard to professional recognition.
As one of the world's foremost interpreters of Baroque keyboard music on the modern piano, Angela Hewitt has established a fine reputation for impeccable playing and fresh musical insights. Listeners who cherish her award-winning recordings on Hyperion of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach have already experienced her exquisite playing, and they will be delighted to hear this selection of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, Bach's contemporary and an innovator whose compositions influenced the development of the Classical sonata. Some of these selections are well known, particularly the Sonata in C major, Kk159, the Sonata in D major, Kk96, and the Sonata in E major, Kk380, which are often anthologized, though Hewitt hasn't packed this disc with greatest hits (with 555 sonatas to choose from, there are many less familiar that deserve attention). Hewitt's performances are thoughtfully phrased, polished in tone, and rhythmically precise with a modicum of rubato, and she is alert to the subtleties that make this music so beguiling. Hewitt recorded these 16 sonatas in the Beethovensaal in Hannover, where she made her first Bach recordings for Hyperion 20 years previously, and the acoustics are nearly ideal for her style.
As the old saying goes, "the third time's the charm." This is indeed the third time the German label Accent has issued this coupling of Domenico Scarlatti's Stabat Mater with João Rodrigues Esteves' Missa a oito voces. The first time was in 1990, when the recording by Currende under the leadership of Erik van Nevel was new, and the second in 1998 as part of a box set containing this and several recordings by Concerto Palatino. No complaints here, though, as this is one of the finest discs Accent has to offer.
The biggest surprise on this wonderfully exuberant and exhilarating disc comes with the very first notes: the piano tone is rich and full, worlds away from the slightly distant, musical-box tone that is often thought appropriate for recordings of Domenico Scarlatti's sonatas on a modern concert grand. But as the soundworld suggests, Tharaud is totally unapologetic about playing these pieces – all originally composed for harpsichord even though the earliest fortepianos were in circulation in Scarlatti's time – on a piano. In the sleevenotes, Tharaud says that of the four baroque keyboard composers that he has recorded so far – Bach, Couperin, Rameau and now Scarlatti – it's the last whose music is most suited to this treatment. His selection of sonatas is chosen for maximum variety, with a group in which the Spanish inflections of flamenco and folk music can be heard, others in which he gets a chance to show some dazzling technique, alongside those in which the playfulness is replaced by profound introspection.
While Ivo Pogorelich established his reputation performing mainly Romantic repertoire, his few forays into the Baroque reveal him to be an equally engaging- if not eccentric musician here as well. In quicker movements, such as the opening Preludes of the English Suites for instance Pogorelich's rhythmic control and contrapuntal clarity are simply amazing. Slower movements likewise are handled with remarkable intensity and delicacy. Pogorelich's performances of four Scarlatti sonatas concluding the program as well are wonderfully animated and knowing.
In Domenico Scarlatti’s vast output of 555 keyboard sonatas, there are a small number of works that are especially interesting to musicologists because of characteristics such as figured bass, three‐ or four‐movement structure, and distinctive melodic lines that are particularly appropriate for a highpitched solo instrument. Some experts believe that these works were written for the violin; on this recording, after meticulous research and the discovery of an important new manuscript at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris, the members of Artemandoline propose the fascinating theory that the sonatas may have been composed for the mandolin. Featuring works ranging from the smaller‐scale K77 to the ambitious and technically demanding K88 – which is extremely well suited to the mandolin thanks to its four‐part chords and dynamic nuances – this disc offers a radical reinterpretation of this captivating music.
First and foremost, Domenico Scarlatti is regarded as the greatest composer of binary harpsichord sonatas of all time, and that is as it should be: he wrote more than 600 of them and many are constantly recorded and played. However, early in his Italian career, Scarlatti developed a proven track record as a composer of sacred music, some of it under the watchful eye of his father, Alessandro Scarlatti, believed by many at the time as the top composer of the age. The fact most readily observed in regard to Domenico's sacred music is that his Stabat mater, composed in 1717 or 1718, was the work within that genre replaced in Rome by Giovanni Pergolesi's Stabat mater around 1735. The Scarlatti work was conceived in a different style to different strictures; while it has become the most recorded of Scarlatti's sacred works, it definitely suffers when paired with the Pergolesi owing to its immediacy and familiarity. On Coro's Iste Confessor, the Sixteen led by Harry Christophers widely opt for Scarlatti's own, other sacred music as filler to the "Stabat mater with results fairer to the composer and quite favorable to listeners.
Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat mater is, and seems always to have been, among the most popular of his comparatively small number of sacred vocal pieces. He probably wrote it between the years 1708 and 1728 when he was primarily employed as a church composer in Rome and in Lisbon. His setting of the 13th-century text is in ten parts divided into four soprano strands, two alto, two tenor and two bass with continuo. The style – a blend of older techniques with more up-to-date means of expression – is curiously anonymous and fails to sustain interest throughout. But it has many attractive ideas and its craftsmanship is well sustained. Several recordings of the piece are available, some preferring one voice to a part to the more chorally inclined version favoured here by the Choir of King’s College, under its director Stephen Cleobury. Nicholas Anderson