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CLASSICAL  March 2005

CLASSICAL March 2005

Subject:

Scherbakov Plays Scarlatti Sonatas

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 8 Mar 2005 18:36:43 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

   Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
       Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 7

Sonatas in:
F major, K.483
F major, K.542
B flat major, K.360
C minor, K.40
C major, K.422
F minor, K.238
F major, K.17
A major, K.500
A major, K.114
E minor, K.291
G major, K.328
A major, K.320
G major, K.283
C major, K.464
D major, K.313
D major, K.479

Konstantin Scherbakov, piano
Recorded Potton Hall, Suffolk, U.K., January 2000
Naxos 8.554842 [64:03]

Each volume to date in the Naxos project to record the entire keyboard
sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti has featured a different pianist, and the
newest volume brings us the exceptional Konstantin Scherbakov who has
received much praise for his recordings of Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.

 From a pianistic and technical viewpoint, Scherbakov leaves his Naxos
predecessors in the dust.  His tone is perfect, his phrasing is perfect,
his trills are perfect - the man has total control of the resources
offered by the modern piano.  Perhaps most impressive is the range of
his articulation and dynamics which is simply amazing.

Of course, the above represent generic attributes, and the issue remains
whether Scherbakov well serves the specific music he is playing.  My
conclusion is that he does not, and I find his interpretations less
satisfying than in the previous Naxos volumes.  How can this be?

Well, one sure way to butcher Scarlatti keyboard music is to use the piano
to smooth over Scarlatti's sharp contours.  About a year ago, I gave a
negative review to the smooth performances of Christian Zacharias on an
MDG disc of Scarlatti sonatas.  However, Scherbakov takes the smooth
route infrequently.  Actually, he's generally sharp as a razor and also
excellently captures the impetuosity so prevalent in Scarlatti's sound
world.

After a few hearings, I started thinking that Scherbakov's underplaying
of lower voices and other secondary musical lines might be the basic
problem.  This is an approach that Scherbakov often takes, and I find
it to damage the forward thrust of the music.  In effect, it's a precious
and even effeminate way to play Scarlatti.  On the other hand, Scherbakov
also displays an abundance of bold projection, so I concluded that the
source problem had to reside elsewhere.

At this point, I went back to the six earlier Naxos volumes and the
widely heralded 2-cd set from Mikhail Pletnev on Virgin Classics.
Listening to these other recordings quickly gave me the answer.  They
are more enjoyable than Scherbakov because they bring out the youthful,
unbridled, and carefree joy of the sonatas in the major keys.  Scherbakov
is just too serious in these pieces and a 'downer' from start to finish.
When moving from Shostakovich/Rachmaninov to major key Scarlatti, one
needs to lighten up and break free of the stresses of life.  From my
perspective, Scherbakov has not fully made the transition.  What's ironic
about this is that Scherbakov also doesn't fully capture the sadness of
the three minor key sonatas.  Essentially, he's serious in all the wrong
places.

I should report that every comment I've heard about this new disc has
been very favorable, so I must conclude that my view is in the minority.
My best advice is to sample the first track, the Sonata K.483; it has
the underplayed musical lines and the relatively serious Scherbakov
treatment.  If the performance is to your liking, rest assured that you
will reap great rewards from the entire disc.  One thing is certain -
Scherbakov will not remind you of any of the previous volumes in this
valuable Naxos series.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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