Domenico Scarlatti’s collection of 555 sonatas for the harpsichord represents a unique output. Far more showy than most of his Baroque brethren, the sonatas are a kaleidoscope of swirling melodic lines and rapid runs. There are even a few that take their influence from the music that he must have heard at the courts of Spain – strummed guitars are never far away.
Canadian pianist Luke Welch presents an all-Scarlatti recital comprising favourites like the Sonata in E Major, L23/K380. One of the oddest things about the harpsichord is that it can’t change volume, though composers got around this problem in some ingenious ways. So, when a performer plays Scarlatti’s music on the modern piano, they must also choose whether to take advantage of the piano’s full range of dynamics or to imitate the harpsichord. Welch sensibly doesn’t thunder away, but instead keeps to a more restricted dynamic range that evokes the older instrument in mood if not in timbre.
This is an assured performance, though awfully short, with the eight tracks on the disc coming in at a smidgen over 35 minutes. I’d have definitely liked a few more to build the recording to a more traditional length. That being said, the recording is available to download through CDBaby or Welch’s website for only a few dollars, so it’s well worth investigating.