Composer: Giuseppe Domenісо Scarlatti
Performer: Scott Ross
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 34 CD box set
Format: FLAC (tracks+m3u)
Label: Warner Classics
Size: 13.5 GB
All 555 sonatas
what can you say?
I would concur with one of the other writers that you might not want to get this gigantic set until you’ve heard some of the much smaller collections by other (at times more interesting) interpreters. Personally I think Pierre Hantaï provides must-hear versions of these pieces.
On the other hand, interpreters like Hantaï, Sempe and Camparone got me curious enough to want to hear what the ‘complete’ set might be like. And for that, well, you couldn’t wish for a much better performance. Ross is energetic, stylish and true enough to the written music that you come away with a real sense of what Scarlatti was about. Where Horowitz casts Scarlatti as something precious and fey, and Hantai presents him as something by turns wild, lyrical and often very Spanish, Ross brings out the Baroque crystalline prettiness in the pretty ones, and a wonderful, driving rythmic intensity to many others. As well, his myriad realizations of the many ornaments and trills is both dazzling and judicious, giving color, surprise and sense to the music.
Scarlatti’s music is so full of dissonances and quirks, this is never going to sound like a Telemann or Bach recital. But relatively speaking, Ross plays it fairly straight — avoids conspicuous rubato (quite different from, say, the Steier performances of some of these pieces). For certain pieces, I feel like Ross sell the music a little short when it gets wild, impetuous and begs for clearer connections to the sort of Spanish guitar playing that informs some of this work. Where Hantai brings out the guitar connection magically and convincingly, Ross’ harpsichord never sounds like anything but a harpsichord. A string of eighth note chords will never sound like a guitar being strummed, it will always sound like a grid of notes on a keyboard. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes it doesn’t seem to take full advantage of the music.
However, this is a REALLY bit set of interpretations, and I’m finding that Ross does have some surprising and wild moments that challenged my initial take on his range and temperamnt (for instance his version of K175 is quite wonderful in its crazy pivots from modernist-sounding dissonances to cutesy music box-isms).
Anyway. I’m revising my review after listening to this massive album practically non-stop for months. Everyone should hear this album, or as much of it as they can get to in their shot time on earth…one can quibble with this or that, but overall it’s a spectacular achievement and wonderfully enjoyable (if one controls one’s dose! One must avoid Scarlatti burnout to be able to hear each piece with fresh ears. Not every one is a winner…but there sure are a lot of winners, and there’s almost always something pretty interesting and distinctive about the rest.)