Domenico Scarlatti, sixth of the famous Alessandro’s ten children, is best known today for his 555 single-movement keyboard sonatas. In 2016, Canadian virtuoso pianist and Baroque specialist Angela Hewitt recorded 16 of these for Hyperion to critical acclaim, and had such a great experience that, as she says in her liner notes, she couldn’t stop, “not with another 540 or so to choose from!” This new recording contains another 17 of Hewitt’s choosing, grouped according to similarities in temperament and key rather than chronologically.
With Hewitt as expert guide, the listener is taken on a structured journey through this immensely satisfying snapshot of Scarlatti’s oeuvre. His early life in Naples and Venice was followed by decades in Spain and Portugal in the service of their royal families, and these influences – processions, tarantellas, fandangos, barcarolles and the percussive strum-like flourishes of flamenco guitar – all find expression in Hewitt’s chosen sonatas. After a triumphant opening, glimpses of Scarlatti’s melancholy appear with the lyrical Sonata Kk. 206 in E, deepen through the G Minor Kk. 426, and finally come to rest in the key of ‘deep depression’, the F Minor Kk. 481, a desolate and hypnotically beautiful Sonata that closes this collection.
A master harpsichordist, Scarlatti was also a master sound colourist, employing an absolutely dazzling array of sonic techniques that Hewitt has here transported to piano with an acute attention to phrase and nuance that never loses sight of their original conception as works for harpsichord (or fortepiano). To this end, the sound is crisp and sprightly with a lovely spatial balance and depth. Hewitt’s scholarly liner
notes are beautifully written; learned, fascinating and engaging. These are thrilling works in the hands of a brilliant interpreter, and we’d better hope that Hewitt doesn’t get off her Scarlatti train any time soon.