SCARLATTI Keyboard Sonatas
In the main, Igor Kamenz’s Scarlatti recital serves up unsatisfying interpretations of favourite pieces. Notice the purposeless elongations at phrase ends and inelegant trills in the opening D major Sonata (Kk96), in contrast to Vladimir Horowitz’s crisp simplicity. The same holds true in Kk135: Kamenz’s fussy inflections versus Dejan Lazic´’s brighter, sharper delivery. Antsy surges of pulse and dynamics render Kk381 dead on arrival when measured against Christian Zacharias’s drive and vitality or the antipodal Maria Tipo’s lapidarian mastery. Next to the astonishing specificity of Ivo Pogorelich’s articulation in Kk119, Kamenz sounds workaday. A slow, spacy Kk197 has nothing of Horowitz’s sense of line and shape, while Kamenz likewise lays heavily on almost every note of the B minor, Kk87. If you prefer the E major, Kk380, slow and introspective instead of medium-tempo and outgoing, David Greilsammer’s finely honed detailing wipes the floor with Kamenz’s prosaic pianism. The dancing heels of the F major (Kk17) click more heavily as the piece progresses, in contrast to the effortless grace of Solomon’s classic shellac recording. Kamenz’s spirited Kk141 surely will crack a smile, despite Argerich or Grosvenor lurking nearby ready to pounce with their jaw-dropping repeated notes. In short, for every sonata Kamenz offers, better recordings exist elsewhere.
Orion Weiss’s Scarlatti occupies a higher level of artistry altogether. You hear this right away in Kk552’s deft contrapuntal interaction, Kk326’s sunny-side-up, bird-like trills and Kk265’s impeccably congruous embellishments and unison lines. Weiss’s lyrical gifts also present themselves well in the E major (Kk216) and F major (Kk296), particularly in the latter’s sublime harmonic detours – I only wish he had observed the repeats. Weiss’s Kk455 and Kk448 may not match Yevgeny Sudbin’s airy lightness, yet his clear fingerwork avoids the music’s potential for registral entanglement. Similarly, the legato fluidity Weiss brings to the F minor Sonata, Kk365, justifies his sedate approach, although some may prefer Sergei Babyan’s quicker pace and variegated touch. And Weiss’s innate feeling for shaping long lines helps bind the persistent dotted rhythms of the long D minor (Kk92) into expressive sentences. This 15th volume in Naxos’s ongoing Scarlatti cycle is one of the series’ two or three finest.