Top Ear

Pletnev’s Scarlatti Vol. 2

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Leonard Ip writes [translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Lee]

Domenico Scarlatti’s single-movement keyboard sonatas have been pretty lucky throughout history.  They have been highly admired by Chopin, as well as “rediscovered” and recorded prolifically by Vladimir Horowitz, the latter of which is an action followed suit by numerous pianists, many of which recordings are veritable artistic achievements in their own right:  besides Horowitz, great modern Scarlatti includes those by Pogorelich, Tharaud, Sudbin, and of course, Pletnev.  (Interesting, isn’t it, that all are pianists with their own special character.)

Pletnev, as with Pogorelich, has mastered the technical side of the keyboard to an almost faultless level:  legatos, staccatos, non-legatos, repeated notes, voicings and tonal control are all handled effortlessly, bringing Scarlatti’s innovative and multitudinous effects (such as the quasi-guitar writing) to life.  Those disliking Pogorelich’s mannerisms (such as extreme tempi), however, should not be worried with Pletnev’s approach–his idiosyncrasies in his Chopin, Beethoven and Rachmaninov are nowhere to be heard in his interpretively straightforward Scarlatti.  In fact, his Scarlatti is honest-to-God Scarlatti, filled with vibrancy and energy, almost bearing the pleasurable feeling of the “golden sun shining on the coasts of southern Italy”.  But of course, Pletnev is still a highly personal artist, and his playing of Baroque pieces does not try to minimize dynamic contrasts, something that purists may not appreciate.  Still, to listeners unfettered by purism, I recommend this album wholeheartedly.

This reissue on Red Line is the second volume to a previous first volume coded 23228122, both of which having been released on a 2-fer by Virgin some time ago.  Since that 2-fer is extinct, and given Red Line’s budget price, it’s prime time that Scarlatti or Pletnev fans who haven’t had the chance to obtain these recordings should do so.


  • Album name:  Scarlatti:  16 Sonatas, Vol. 2
  • Performers:  Mikhail Pletnev (piano)
  • Label:  EMI Red Line 50999 9 28270 2 8
  • Sonics:  Stereo DDD
  • Total playing time:  68:45

Author: Top Ear

Musical hooligans.

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