Author Topic: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano  (Read 1111 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« on: July 22, 2017, 01:45:12 AM »
Another week, another mini-blind comparison -
this time 6 recordings of a Scarlatti Sonata, K27 in B minor, played on piano.

Because I found several repeated recordings of the same Sonata rather hard to take - even though this is probably my favourite Scarlatti Sonata - I have interspersed three other Sonatas, by three other pianists, to vary the diet.  You can choose to include these three in the comparison, or you can skip them completely, they are files 3,6 and 9, but they are each rather good in their very different ways, I think.

All the sonatas are complete (except File 6, where I have edited out one repeat to reduce the duration), all are played on piano, each lasts between 3m30 and 4m30.  So listening to the six K27s would take under 25 minutes, listening to all nine would take about 35 minutes.

I think one reason why its hard to listen to several of these in a row, is that repeating is built in to these sonatas, and particularly K27.  All are constructed in very clear AABB form so that listening to 6 versions in a row means that you actually hear each piece of music 12 times.  I did try editing them down to AB or ABB for comparison purposes but it just didn't sound right.
And K27 additionally uses repetition to musical effect - think Philip Glass, or Anton Bruckner - at around 2:10 (in most versions of K27) the same short figure is repeated 7 times while the music goes into a sort of suspension.  Different performers cope with this in different ways, some relish the effect and play it deadpan, Glass-like, others try to put a different spin on each repeated note, at least one pianist just can't stand it and simply cuts some of them out.   :-\

So - who plays Scarlatti with style, and who does not?

These links and files will be removed after a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, please enjoy:
[files removed]
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 01:37:37 PM by aukhawk »

Offline Brian

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2017, 05:53:02 PM »
So excited to play this week! I am on a big Scarlatti kick this summer.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2017, 09:42:49 AM »
Good-oh!  I meant to mention - one of the samples featured was only released a few days ago ...

Online Mandryka

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2017, 06:06:04 AM »
What a curious bit of music this one is, with all those repetitions. It's not just that he repeats each half like a Goldberg Variation - but also, in each half there's a little motif which is repeated and repeated and repeated, almost to the limits of music!

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Offline bwv 1080

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2017, 06:27:00 AM »
K27 almost sounds French to me - like Rameau or Couperin- on Harpsichord

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/V5ArXmga8zQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/V5ArXmga8zQ</a>
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2017, 07:01:12 AM »
Look at all the hand crossings in the little unreasonably repeated motif, it can't be easy to play, especially in the second half. Do pianists have to fiddle around with the score to make it fit? And I see he decided to omit the repeat of Part 2 - obviously ran out of ideas about how to make it interesting.

I've got three recordings of Scott Ross playing it, at St. Guillem le désert, the big set and his first Scarlatti recording on Stil. I wonder if that YouTube is a fourth.

« Last Edit: July 24, 2017, 07:08:09 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2017, 01:47:09 AM »
Yes it doesn't sound like a particularly challenging piece to play, especially when a slower tempo is chosen, but there's a lot of hand-crossing, not only in those repeating phrases but also at the downward runs of double notes at the end.  Obviously the trick is to make it sound effortless.
K27 was included in a volume of 'Essercizi' or exercises and in the preface Scarlatti wrote "To indicate the disposition of the hands I advise you that by the D is indicated the right, and by the M the left."  These pieces were after all primarily for the amusement of his patron, Queen Maria Barbara, who must have been a talented keyboardist, so flamboyance and theatricality are sort-of part of the brief.
In the repeating phrase it's almost like the performer saying "Did you see what I did there? No? Look, here it is again.".  ;D

Here is a video of Anne Queffelec playing K27 which shows it all very clearly:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTTlaOADxaA

This piece features a lot on Youtube - I note that most performers are watching their hands on the keyboard like a hawk - this isn't a piece to play with your eyes shut.  Also there's a wide variation of tempi chosen - both much quicker, and much slower, than any of the 'blind' samples.

[edit to add:
There's also a bit of an analysis of the piece, here, starting 2:10
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K0fxivBhr0
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 02:14:05 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Holden

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2017, 02:23:33 AM »
The crossing of the hands is probably because this was originally played on a two manual harpsichord. The very simple Kk91 requires a lot of hand crossing (it's not hard) but I can see how this would not happen on a two manual keyboard. BTW, there is some dispute about this actually being a Scarlatti work.
Cheers

Holden

Online Mandryka

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2017, 04:08:30 AM »
As far as recordings go, on harpsichord at least, there are a couple I really like. Wladyslav Klosiewicz uses tons of colours -- lute stops, stuff like that -- to make the different styles in the sonata contrast with each other. And he takes none of the repeats.

Gilbert Rowland takes the repeat in the first half but not in the second, the tempos are so well judged that he pulls it off. Kenneth Weiss was not bad either.

Most of the other harpsichord ones seemed completely meh at best, or just plain dull (Hantai for example.) I haven't heard any of the piano ones in the samples yet -- but I remember hearing a fantastic piano one in a concert which could well have been included, I'll keep schtum.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 04:12:34 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2017, 04:11:26 AM »
Ooooooh! yummy! Can't wait!
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2017, 04:16:16 AM »
The crossing of the hands is probably because this was originally played on a two manual harpsichord. The very simple Kk91 requires a lot of hand crossing (it's not hard) but I can see how this would not happen on a two manual keyboard. BTW, there is some dispute about this actually being a Scarlatti work.

Scott Ross is using a two manual harpsichord on that video and he's crossing his hands like a mad thing, that's why I thought that pianists may have to tinker around with the score to make it fit on a single keyboard, maybe. Why on earth didn't two manual pianos catch on?
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2017, 04:29:25 AM »
In the repeating phrase it's almost like the performer saying "Did you see what I did there? No? Look, here it is again.".  ;D


Or "this is so much fun I just can't stop myself from doing it again and again and again and again and again and again."
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2017, 09:30:45 AM »
Scott Ross is using a two manual harpsichord on that video and he's crossing his hands like a mad thing,...

He also switches hands halfway through one passage - he starts off as intended (I assume) playing the rippling figure with the right hand and picking out the low and high outliers crossing with the left, but for additional bravado he then fairly seamlessly switches the rippling to the left and crosses with the right.

I haven't got any harpsichord recordings of this so this is the only one I've heard so far.  It does seem to me that this is an instance where the piano has a clear advantage, because the pianist can achieve a legato effect between the low/high outliers which would be impossible on harpsichord, and that does sound better to me (even though D.S. - or whoever - presumably didn't intend it that way).
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 09:36:42 AM by aukhawk »

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2017, 11:19:43 PM »
I am not too familiar with Scarlatti, so this will be great. My general impressions:
1 - Totally in control and generally precise tempo. Light touch in certain respects, and can really hear everything. Perhaps not always as refined as it could be, with some heaviness at times, but overall quite good. 
2- Much faster, lighter. The while speed helps reduce the repetitiveness. I am losing a bit of detail in some areas. A bit of rubato here. Sometimes, I think to maintain the speed, it seems like nothing is happening. Still, a nice contrast to the first.
4- Slower, and a bit pingy. Some rubato here. Not quite as much detail or light touch throughout. it's not bad, just not by preferred one. 
5- Immediately rubato noticeable. This has a different idea on how to play it. This one is more individual, which some may like. Plays much more with the extremes - tempo, phrasing, etc. Still, quite well played for all that my preferences lie elsewhere. I would not be surprised if some loved this one most.
7- Rubato here, and perhaps a bit pingy. That's in part because of the phrasing, which is more staccato then some in certain passages. The push and pull of the tempo is more micro-managed here. Though this one shows a lot of individuality, I think the choices are less successful. Though, still well played for the most part.
8-Rubato here too. The sound is far less reverberant than the previous. The changing tempo and phrasing don't really do it for me.

Order of preference:   1, 5, 2, 8, 4, 7

In general, I didn't like the ones that played too much with tempo. I preferred little to no rubato here as well as a more consistent tempo. #1 is the only one that really does that. Some may think it bland compared to the others - it doesn't have as much individuality, that's true. But the choices seem totally right for the music.  #2 has perhaps just a hair too much staccato at times for me, but that one was also quite good. #5 is so individualistic. I'm surprised I liked it so much, but it just oozes competence and technique - perhaps better than #1. Still, I prefer the approach in #1. 

Not a bad performance in the lot though, so I will be really interested to see who is who!
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2017, 02:31:30 AM »
Thankyou so much!  I think you've come very close to listing them by recording date, oldest first  ;D

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2017, 03:39:10 AM »
Thankyou so much!  I think you've come very close to listing them by recording date, oldest first  ;D
Even more intriguing then. I really liked the first three a lot, but you really picked a good grouping. Very diverse, all with something (different) to say about the music.
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2017, 06:03:08 PM »
Sorry to see less interest than usual, maybe in part because it's summer. They were a well thought out group. Maybe a little bump will remind people...
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2017, 11:12:47 PM »
There's always some aspect of real life that gets in the way - summer, Christmas, you name it.  ;)  I'll remove the files at the end of this month, so if anyone wants to download them for reference, fair warning that they will disappear then, and I'll reveal immediately after that.

Offline Brian

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2017, 08:48:16 AM »
1 - At first I wasn't sure if I liked this take - the opening is a little brusque and inflexible - but I liked it more as time got on and as the pianist showed willingness to differentiate dynamics (I'm a fan of pianists fully exploiting their instruments' dynamic ranges, period practice be damned!).
2 - This might be more my bag - the clipped phrasing, the slightly fleeter fingers, the way that the pianist relaxes into the major-key melody in a more romanticized way. I think with Scarlatti more than most composers, because of the HUGE variety of choices you need to make in interpretation (are you going to try to imitate the harpsichord? are you going to throw HIP out the window?), you will see these answers reflecting our personalities...mine is more on the pianistic side so I like this one. Does the pianist add an extra bass note on the final chord? Pretty sure that is an edit to the text...which suggests maybe this is Pletnev or someone like that.
3 - Not sure I have heard this sonata before. It reminds me a bit of K. 141 (which we will be hearing later!). The pianist sounds like someone whose Scarlatti I will enjoy in further exploration.
4 - Oh wow, much slower and more meditative, more what I am used to. In fact I might own this one. It's utterly lovely, a poetic, nocturnal take where the repetitions are emphasized rather than differentiated and the result can be hypnotic (like at 0:21-0:30). As much as I enjoyed 2, this one is my favorite of the three so far, and they have almost nothing in common.
5 - Some serious mustard on that first phrase - I assume that the pianist went unusually staccato here to differentiate his/her take. The staccato is applied inconsistently through the rest of the piece, certainly not at the repeat, so it comes across more as an affectation than an integral part of the interpretation. Pity - otherwise lot of good stuff in this, which maybe is not so different from 2?
6 - Another sonata not very familiar to me. I'm afraid here it comes across rather monotonous and dirgelike - it always does take a bit of extra artistry to sell me on Scarlatti's slow, long sonatas, maybe a sign of my attention span :(
7 - Exactly the opposite of #5, this pianist instead very archly/self-awarely slows down that first phrase and then plays the rest of the piece fairly quickly. Unflattering bright sound quality. At least they're consistent at the repeat, but it just makes the self-consciousness more obvious. It's better to indulge that opening phrase with a softer touch, rather than a slower/faster one.
8 - Sounds like early 80s digital sound. Generally like it, maybe I am getting to listener fatigue but I found not much to comment on here either way - feels very middle of the road. If someone, maybe a pianist learning the piece, asked me what a Normal performance of the sonata sounds like, I'd direct them to this one as representing solid mainstream interpretation.
9 - Oh my goodness that is some insanely fast repeated note action. Nowadays Yevgeny Sudbin can do that too. Exciting to hear, I'm far from sure that the piece benefits from being played quickly, but it is fun to hear once, especially since this was presumably an encore at the end of a rousing concert. Perfect for that context.

General brackets:
Loved: 4
Really liked: 2, 8
Fine: 1, 5
Not fine: 7

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Mini-blind comparison: Scarlatti K27 on piano
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2017, 06:18:12 PM »
I really enjoyed reading your comments. It seems like we heard the same things, but reacted to them differently. For example, I loved that I called #1 controlled, but you called him a little inflexible. I'd be willing to admit that, in my opinion, this piece needs some inflexibility in the tempo. :)
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

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