Compositions: Harpsichord sonatas
Performers: Pierre Hantaï hpscd
Catalogue Number: Mirare MIR442
This is the sixth volume in French harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï’s survey of Scarlatti’s c.555 keyboard sonatas, and it’s another cracker. There’s an argument that his sonatas sound best on the instrument for which they were intended and Hantaï makes that argument most persuasively here. But he also brings out Scarlatti’s Iberian idiom in such a way that if another instrument were chosen, it would have to be the classical guitar. There are enough recordings on both those instruments for listeners to decide for themselves. Here, we are only concerned with the harpsichord, while relishing the evocations not just of the flamenco guitar, but flamenco dance, flamenco song and flamenco rhythms.
The opening D Major Sonata (K119) is exuberant, fun and brimming with crashing chords, rhetorical pauses and accelerations and cheeky digressions, contrasting sharply with the following G Minor Sonata (K179) with its hints of the fandango, and with the next, slower G Minor Sonata, which evokes a cante jondo accompanied by the strumming of a guitar.
In the same way Scarlatti obsesses over binary form, repeated motifs, sudden shifts of key, mood and tempo, does Hantaï contrast different sonatas, inviting comparisons that pair or group or drive apart. And dance conquers all, whether in the skipping and crossing of hands or the repetition of notes or chords or arpeggios or scintillating chains of trills. Listen to K501, K43, K384 and K447 especially!