Magazine article Gramophone

Scarlatti Splinters: Jed Distler Listens to Three Wholly Different Approaches to Domenico Scarlatti's Endlessly Inventive Keyboard Sonatas

Magazine article Gramophone

Scarlatti Splinters: Jed Distler Listens to Three Wholly Different Approaches to Domenico Scarlatti's Endlessly Inventive Keyboard Sonatas

Article excerpt

David Greilsammer's previous Sony releases pitted old and new pieces against each other in surprisingly effective programmes. Here the pianist offers a similar game plan as he goes back and forth between Scarlatti sonatas and individual movements from John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano. As it happens, the juxtapositions make musical sense from a perspective of tonal relationships, and genuinely flow from one selection to the next. Greilsammer's sedate, introspective unfolding of Scarlatti's Kk213 D minor Sonata assiduously dovetails into the gende arpeggios and repeated notes in Cage's Gemini Sonatas XIV and XV. In turn, Cage's staggered and asymmetrical repeated notes provide the perfect lead-in to Scarlatti's Kk141 in D minor, with its machine gun-like repeated notes, although Greilsammer's punchy left-hand chords ultimately claim our attention. Cage's lyrical, E minor-ish Sonata XIII makes an interesting bookend to the familiar E major, Kk531. You get the drift. That said, one wonders if the overall programme concept governs Greilsammer's tempo choices. Would he normally take the Allegro directive of the B minor, Kk27, at a leisurely andante or play the first Cage Sonata in a glacial, monumental manner that markedly differs from the faster, lighter norm? Or treat the typically upbeat E major, Kk381, like a lament? For whatever reason, Greilsammer saves his best Scarlatti interpretation for the final selection, an incisive and splendidly articulated account of the D major, Kk492. And while the Cage pieces certainly hold interest individually, the entire Sonatas and Interludes make a deeper impact when performed as an integral, unified cycle.

Unlike pianos or harpsichords, accordions are able to make crescendos and ditninuendos on a single note or chord. The trick is to deploy this advantage tastefully. When accordionist Janne Rattya does so, he manages to breathe refreshing new life and character into the Kk203 E minor's short trills and the Kk13 G major's clipped phrases and short repeated-note phrases. He uses dynamic swells to help clarify counterpoint and propel long melodies over the bar-lines in the Kk19 F minor, although the same devices sound relatively mannered and draw attention to themselves rather than the music in the Kk126 C minor. They prove more annoying in the Kk159 C major, together with tempo modifications that are less expressive than they are prissy. But the rapid triple-metre Kk519 in F minor generates rhythmic excitement and dramatic tension through a steady pace and dynamic understatement. And Rattya's crescendos on long sustained notes provide a heated contrast to the quick downwards-cascading arpeggios in another F minor masterpiece, the Kk386 Sonata. …

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