Bartók; Scarlatti - Liaisons, Vol 1
An exciting idea this…and it works! After all, Bartók greatly admired Scarlatti: he even recorded a couple of his sonatas. Both composers were innovators and combined a strong feeling for rhythm with an audacious sense of harmony.
Dejan Lazic wastes no time in establishing his credentials as a Scarlatti player. He opens the programme with a somewhat militaristic-sounding C major piece, K420, and already it’s all there – the light, resilient touch, the crisp (and often free) approach to rhythm, nimble passagework and an obvious appreciation of subsidiary material. The last of that particular Scarlatti trio, a filigree piece in F, segues beautifully with the first of Bartók’s Three Rondos on Slovak Folktunes (in C), the principal common denominator here, as so often elsewhere, the dance element.
Lazic has a very individual Bartók style; he’s no literalist, as illustrated by his emphatic handling of the syncopated main motif of the last Rondo. Again the segue from Bartók (third Rondo) to Scarlatti (the processional D major Sonata, K491) is imaginative, though the switch from the gaily skipping D major Sonata (K159) to the first of Bartók’s haunting Seven Sketches is more surprising. Lazic personalises the sequence in a most compelling way. He then gently breaks their spell with Scarlatti’s D minor (“Pastoral”) and interestingly sandwiches a dramatic piano version (Bartók’s own) of the Kossuth Funeral March between lively sonatas in F major and A minor. Perhaps the most effective segue finds the flamenco strumming of Scarlatti’s K135 (E major) acting as a prelude to the first of “Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm” which conclude Bartók’s Mikrokosmos. Here Lazic´ underlines the individual character of each dance, tenderising the fourth (a tribute to Gershwin) with expressive arpeggios, and focusing the fifth’s dizzying rhythmic ambiguities.
You reach the journey’s end eager to start all over again – or maybe work out another Scarlatti-Bartók sequence. The potential is limitless and I sincerely hope that this first volume of a series called “Liaisons” doesn’t preclude a second Scarlatti-Bartók sequence.