Compositions: 52 sonatas
Performers: Lucas Debargue p
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075944462 (4CD)
Lucas Debargue came fourth in the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition, but nonetheless was the talk of the town. Although he’s recorded Scarlatti before (his debut disc with Sony included a handful of pieces), this four-disc set is a more serious proposition. The first thing to note, which may cause some purists to run screaming, is the fact that these are played on piano. Debargue mentions, though, that he plays these with some nods to harpsichord technique – he uses almost no pedal on this collection, for instance.
Scarlatti’s 555 sonatas present a challenge for programming. How do you join the dots between these individual pieces and make them into a coherent whole? Well, Debargue points out that certain pairs seem to link up, so most of the sonatas in this set are grouped in similar keys. I think this works, although there’s such a preponderance of rapid pieces that I found myself trying to find a slower track for some breathing room as a listener.
Debargue plays these with a lovely light touch (hear how crisp the Sonata in E, K. 531 is!), and, as one of the aforementioned purists, I didn’t find myself missing the harpsichord at all. Debargue also takes tasteful advantage of the piano’s dynamic range. Still, while it might sound a little harsh, I’m not really sure why this needed to be a four-disc set. This is a lovely collection, but it’s also an awful lot of Scarlatti. I’d have preferred to see a trim single disc.