Domenico Scarlatti ’s Sonatas
The sixteen short works that acclaimed pianist Angela Hewitt has chosen for the programme of her first volume of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonatas (the second has been released in 2017) are only a small portion of the composer’s catalogue.
Composer Domenico Scarlatti, the gifted son of the famous Alessandro (1685-1757), was also a talented and inventive keyboard player. He wrote more than five hundred and fifty keyboard sonatas before he reached the age of fifty. What is more astonishing is that just one person, Scarlatti’s pupil and patron Princess Maria Barbara of Portugal (the future Queen of Spain), was the dedicatee of the Sonatas. As it is reported, Maria Barbara «surprise[s with] the amazed intelligence of the most excellent Professors with her Mastery of Singing, Playing and Composition». It was this royal protectress that bequeathed the volumes of Scarlatti’s Sonatas to the famous castrato singer Farinelli. It is thanks to this legacy that now it is possible for us to know and enjoy Scarlatti’s works.
Angela Hewitt and Domenico Scarlatti ’s Sonatas
Selecting the Programme
In the booklet notes Angela Hewitt wrote herself, she explains why she decided to arrange the Sonatas in groups. She initially tried to follow the hint of one of Scarlatti’s biographers, who suggested to play the Sonatas in couples. Then, however, she realized «that one sonata in a pair was not nearly as interesting as the next and rather diminished the effect». For this reason, she decided to organize them in groups, to «make a satisfying whole when performed in concert».
In this way, the sixteen sonatas of the present recording are divided into five groups. Only the Sonata in E major Kk380 remains apart as Hewitt intends it as her «encore».
Hewitt’s rendition has a light tone, in contrast with other keyboard players who prefer a slightly dramatic depth. She never tries to find any sombre nuance or dark colour. Even though the Sonatas are quite different in character, their common denominator is a radiant and joyous tone. Not even the more melancholic ones, as the long, plaintive Sonata Kk109, lack shining colours and sparkling vibrancy.
Furthermore, Hewitt’s performance has an unmistakable and courtly elegance. This feature suits to perfection these refined works. Her dazzling technique and emotional honesty allow her to be always in control of herself. Hewitt always seeks the right balance between grace and energy.
This makes possible to Hewitt to set the right mood in every piece. The atmosphere is graceful in the shimmering Sonata Kk113 or in the Sonata Kk13 (which open and end the same group respectively), charming as that of the lively Sonata Kk427, nervous and intense as in the Sonata Kk141, blissfully dreamy as the Sonata Kk69 or lyrical as the Sonata Kk9. Moreover, thanks to the use of a wide range of dynamics, she catches all the varying colours of these works.
Together with the second volume of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonatas, the present recording is a cornerstone for this genre. Angela Hewitt is a skilful and sensitive performer. She finds herself completely at ease with the refined music of the Italian composer. The hope is that Hewitt’s presence in this repertoire will not remain limited to these two recordings, but that more of them will come.