Author Topic: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked  (Read 1054 times)

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Offline amw

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2020, 09:18:38 PM »
Thank you, guys. That would cost me some money (and time) if I decided to undertake such a project.
There's also a (complete?) piano cycle from Christoph Ullrich on Tacet (even more money), and a multi-pianist Czech Radio cycle. I guess if I had to recommend just one I'd go with the Naxos. You will probably want to look at harpsichord recordings if you're serious about Scarlatti though, at least Asperen, Koopman, Staier, Black and Beauséjour.

I also neglected to mention a personal favourite (Aline Zylberajch on a Cristofori piano) and a deserved classic (Marcelle Meyer).

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2020, 09:49:35 PM »
Some interesting suggestions for listening, thank you. It's not a subject I've dwelled much into. Preferring piano recordings, I might go for the Naxos recording, when it's available as a budget box some time in the future, or if somehow I see the Grante sets cheaply.

So far, the main material I've got is
- LPs by Weissenberg (DG) and Haskil (Westminster);
- CDs with Pletnev (2CD, Virgin Classics, but perhaps less good than one would think, often rather slow for instance), Marcelle Meyer (in Complete Recordings, 17CD) and Horowitz (sony),
- harpsichord LP by John Beckett (Pan label)

plus various sonatas in compilation albums (Pogorelich, Gilels, early Horowitz, Rachmaninov, Michelangeli, Lipatti, and on harpsichord just Sgrizzi, Marlowe).

In the writing down of my collection, I still haven't done the irritating job of harmonizing the L- and K-numberings of the sonatas, which differ between recordings ...
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 10:10:57 PM by MusicTurner »

Offline Todd

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2020, 04:02:30 AM »
More like "finalist on the modern competition circuit" level chops.


There are hundreds of pianists like that.  Meh.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2020, 04:11:53 AM »
K27 - played by Sudbin, starts out sounding like Bach, vivid pre-echoes of Chopin and Glass, and finishing as purest Scarlatti.
K476 - played by Huangci - effervescent, Champagne Scarlatti or should that be Cava Scarlatti or even Prosecco Scarlatti.  Actually Claire plays this following on without a break from K108 in the same key.
K8 - staying with g minor - Andjaparidze plays this funereal music as well as anyone.
and K141 is a showpiece that is right up Argerich's alley.

That's about as much stamina as I have for lists right now.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 01:17:12 PM by aukhawk »

Offline Jo498

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2020, 04:21:07 AM »
Zacharias whose playing I would describe as "classicist" has recorded considerably more than most other recitals and not only the usual suspects. Three discs on EMI, + another one with 20 versions of one sonata (he used to play as encore) and another disc on MDG, so that'S about 60 or more sonatas. I only have the first three discs but they are highly recommendable (and cheap, there has been a reissue of the 4 EMI discs) and the rest is probably good as well. Weissenberg and Pogo are great for highly "pianistic" anthologies but mostly usual suspect sonatas. Cannot remember my favorites (except 380, 492 and the ubiquitous K 9).
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2020, 07:53:15 AM »

K490 - undoubtedly the weirdest sonata of them all, starting with the completely inappropriate tempo marking "Cantabile" and going from there (favourite recording: Koopman or Belder)

The weirdest I know is Richard Lester, but he's a scholar, so I guess he had thought about it.


K481 - My overall favourite. (favourite recording: Zylberajch)


Very tender, lovely. And the instrument is fabulous in it -- you can still get some guitar like effects.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 08:46:56 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #26 on: June 28, 2020, 08:31:35 AM »
So far, the main material I've got is

- harpsichord LP by John Beckett (Pan label)

I recall this from my youth. An impressive recording played with strong drive and intensity.
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #27 on: June 28, 2020, 08:49:34 AM »
I recall this from my youth. An impressive recording played with strong drive and intensity.

The Pan label's LPs of earlier music had some striking covers, but were of varying interest musically; I tried to choose some of the better ones, when finding some in Copenhagen ...

Beckett BTW was a colourful and interesting character, related to Samuel Beckett https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._Beckett

https://www.discogs.com/Scarlatti-John-Beckett-Sonatas-For-Harpsichord/release/8521434

Offline amw

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #28 on: June 28, 2020, 04:28:30 PM »
The weirdest I know is Richard Lester, but he's a scholar, so I guess he had thought about it.
Lester and Ross both picked it out for their "favourite sonatas" compilations—I haven't listened to Lester's yet but I probably should.

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #29 on: June 28, 2020, 05:07:01 PM »
Since I share almost no favourites with the writer of the article I decided to make my own personal "best of". I couldn't rank all 555 in any kind of order (lol) but I have at least listened to all of them (and have the scores.)

Favourite recordings always subject to change.

K24 - the earlier and crazier of two versions of this sonata; at the height of virtuosity. (favourite recording: Virginia Black, on harpsichord—most performers take it too slowly due to the difficulty involved)


I just went ahead and pulled the trigger on this disk, based on your mention, which sent me looking around. I have absolutely no interest in piano versions, but a different harpsichord recital is always appreciated. Thanks!

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #30 on: June 28, 2020, 05:08:19 PM »
Lester and Ross both picked it out for their "favourite sonatas" compilations—I haven't listened to Lester's yet but I probably should.

I have Ross', it is especially nice. Is Lester's on fortepiano?  All of his disks I have to date are, but with Scarlatti you never know.

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Online Mandryka

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2020, 06:19:57 PM »
Lester . .  picked it out for [h]is "favourite sonatas" compilations—I haven't listened to Lester's yet but I probably should.

Just the first half unfortunately.
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Offline accmacmus

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #32 on: July 05, 2020, 02:34:26 AM »
K455. Might not be the flashiest or most original one, but is cosy and I come back to it frequently.

Offline Dima

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2020, 08:20:52 AM »
I like very much 433 sonata of Scarlatti in version of John Cage.  :)

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #34 on: September 15, 2020, 11:10:49 AM »
Some twenty odd years ago, I played through the sonatas courtesy of the library and made a rough assessment of each. I only did this so as to whittle them down to a select group for my own repertoire and I've probably lost sight of some very good ones. However, the experience was very interesting from the point of view of Scarlatti's development from the early baroque sonatas to the later classical ones. Any ranking must surely vary from day to day!
However, I do have the Schirmer edition of 60 always at my fingertips. Two of my favourites from this are K426 and K516. Of the others, I will mention K97, which I absolutely love!
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #35 on: September 16, 2020, 09:15:12 AM »
Some twenty odd years ago, I played through the sonatas courtesy of the library and made a rough assessment of each. I only did this so as to whittle them down to a select group for my own repertoire and I've probably lost sight of some very good ones. However, the experience was very interesting from the point of view of Scarlatti's development from the early baroque sonatas to the later classical ones. Any ranking must surely vary from day to day!
However, I do have the Schirmer edition of 60 always at my fingertips. Two of my favourites from this are K426 and K516. Of the others, I will mention K97, which I absolutely love!

I think the dating of the sonatas is very problematic -- we believe that the first 30 are earlier than the rest, but from the rest, the time of composition is very much disputed. You will occasionally see CDs with titles like "Sarlatti, the late sonatas", Colin Tilney has one. But I think it's probably best to take it with a pinch of salt.

Here's Hantai on the subject

Quote
Some remarks on the chronology of Scarlatti’s works
In the 1950s, when the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick produced his catalogue of Scarlatti’s
keyboard works, he decided to assign numbers 1 to 30 to the pieces printed in 1738 (the famous
Essercizi) and thereafter to follow the order found in the Venice manuscript, one of the two key
sources still extant today. Kirkpatrick did not claim that his classification corresponded to the
order in which the sonatas had been composed, yet there are good grounds for thinking that this
source does largely respect their chronology.
Having studied the style and quality of these compositions, and above all the degree of ‘maturity’
of certain features in the writing which are Scarlatti’s alone, I have little doubt of this. It does in
fact seem logical to place the Essercizi towards the start of his output. As this is the only part
which can be dated, the point is naturally of importance to any attempt to situate the rest. The
Essercizi are short pieces, polished with particular care with a view to their publication. One
encounters in them many traits peculiar to Scarlatti, yet it is precisely in the light shed by the
other sonatas that it is possible to discern therein a world still in gestation. Some people have
suggested that the composer, so as not to shock the ears of the dilettantes in London or Paris,
may have deliberately limited his expressive range and written in a simple and accessible style,
little influenced by the folklore of the Iberian Peninsula: hence these thirty sonatas might just
as well have been written after most of the others. But numerous elements, in addition to the
musical material itself, lead us to a different conclusion. The earliest sonatas, in my opinion,
are those located between the thirtieth and the hundredth in the catalogue. One finds mixed
together there a fair number of very weak pieces, entirely Italianate in style and apparently
composed at an earlier period; a series of movements written in two parts and including a figured
bass, probably intended for a melody instrument and accompaniment, but which can sound just
as well on the harpsichord if one adds harmonies; and several pieces including ideas which are
exploited in much more convincing fashion in the Essercizi, and whose earlier date is thus obvious
(compare for example the Sonatas K39 and K24). So, at one point in his life, Scarlatti was this trivial
composer, so disappointing to those of us who know and love his œuvre . . . But this area of the
catalogue also includes some indisputable masterpieces (K43, 46, 52, 54, 56) which I for my part
would place after the Essercizi. It would seem, then, that this section of the manuscript is no more
than a compilation of scattered elements devoid of any real chronology. It is only once we are
past a hundred sonatas or so that the grouping in pairs begins to appear. From this point on, and
without a break right up to the very last sonatas, things seem to have become organised. Here
is a fact which in itself allows us to assert that the numbers which come before must have been
composed at an earlier date.

There is one aspect of the output of any composer which makes it possible to date his music
fairly precisely: the pitch of the highest and lowest notes required in the score. Over the
centuries keyboards have constantly been extended, offering more notes to composers who,
still unsatisfied, have each time wanted to go one short step further. For example, it is clear that
Scarlatti at first had no note higher than c’’’ at his disposal, like Bach at a certain period. In the
Essercizi nothing is written higher than c’’’, and d’’’ only appears regularly from K100 onwards, but
is subsequently in constant use. One senses that Scarlatti once more feels constricted, which leads
him to modify certain melodic imitations within the limits allowed by the instrument. Finally,
e’’’ crops up, then f’’’, and in the end he reaches g’’’, a note that existed on only a few keyboard
instruments at the time (Beethoven was the first composer of the Classical era who was able to
use it, and only towards the middle of his lifetime). In this respect, it is important to note that a
composer only decides to make use of a new note when it is present on the instruments available
to him and when he assumes that a sufficient number of musicians will be in a position to play his
works that require it. Who knows if Scarlatti was not the first to urge Spanish instrument makers
to reach these unaccustomed heights?
The last element that can give us a relatively clear idea of the order of composition is the
increasing precision with which Scarlatti indicates the tempo of his sonatas from one end of
the manuscript to the other. Thus – and this must have been a surprise to many people – the
Essercizi present only two possibilities: allegro or presto (!). Is there really not a single moment
in all these pieces requiring even a semblance of moderation? Is everything either fast or very
fast? I think that what comes afterwards sheds considerable light on this question. One gradually
meets more precise indications such as larghetto, allegro assai, andante moderato, allegrissimo,
until there comes a point when Scarlatti seems to be content with half-a-dozen tempo markings
signifying either ‘fast’ (allegro, allegrissimo, presto) or ‘slow’ (adagio, andante). The term vivo makes
its first appearance at no.125 and will be abundantly utilised thereafter, sometimes combined
with allegro. The word cantabile, which is not properly speaking an indication of tempo, is also
encountered from no.132. One observes Scarlatti seeking greater precision in his wording
(allegro ma non molto [K166], vivo non molto [K203], allegro vivo [K180], andante moderato e
cantabile [K170]), without always grasping exactly he is getting at. It is in the names he gives the
slow movements (andantino for the first time in K211, then cantabile andantino [K277], andante
commodo [K328], moderato [K347]), or on the contrary at the rapid end of the spectrum (presto,
prestissimo [K348]), that he is most precise. It is in the sonatas towards the end of the catalogue
that Scarlatti is at his most inspired in stating what he wants (più tosto presto che allegro [K419],
presto quanto si possibile [K427], non presto ma a tempo di ballo [K430], andante allegro [K452],andante spiritoso [K454]). But it would appear that it was when trying to say ‘fast but not too fast’
that he had the greatest difficulty in explaining his wishes – and this is exactly what is lacking in
the Essercizi. The Sonata K501 sees the emergence of the term allegretto – at last! This was to be
the new norm, all over Europe and for a long time to come, for designating without too much
circumlocution a tempo that was to be brisk yet restrained. Five hundred sonatas were necessary
to get to this stage, after which the term is used twelve times more up to the very last sonata,
no.555.
Of course, it is of no great significance whether Scarlatti composed these final pieces on the eve
of his death, or somewhat earlier. But how can one be other than astonished, in the light of the
foregoing reflections, to realise just how late inspiration came to this composer, and to think that
it was an old man who felt bursting forth from his imagination music so playful, so full of frenetic
jousts, of vivacity and ardour?

And W Dean Sutcliffe

Quote
Two other fundamental areas of investigation have been held up as the salvation for Scarlatti studies – chronology and organology. The reliance on a well-established chronology for almost any form of scholarly musical study has already been explored. The particular terms of reference for any discussion of this matter have been set by Kirkpatrick; one of the main reasons he was able to tell such a good story in his 1953 book was that he was so confident of his chronology. All the standard parts of the master narrative87 can thus take their place, in the ‘conspicuous stylistic development . . . from the flashy and relatively youthful sonatas of [V 1749] and a few already copied out in [V 1742] through the poetic richness of the middle period of 1752 and 1753 . . . to the most complete and digested maturity imaginable in the late sonatas from 1754 to 1757’;88 subsequently we read that in the late sonatas ‘everything is at once thinner and richer’.89 What rendered Kirkpatrick’s wholly traditional narrative rather incredible, if not absurd, was that he believed the dates of copying almost coincided with those of composition. Thus, as he conceded himself, the ‘development of a lifetime’90 was compressed into a remarkably short period.

Malcolm Boyd has made a useful distinction between the two separate strands of Kirkpatrick’s chronological claims. He believes there is a good deal of stylistic evidence to support Kirkpatrick’s ‘ “general theory” of a direct relationship between the order of composition and the order of copying into the two main sources’; on the other hand, he finds it hard to credit the ‘ “special theory” . . . that the sonatas were copied into the Venice and Parma sets more or less at the time that Scarlatti completed them’.91 This incredulity seems to have been shared by most other writers. The ‘general theory’ has been widely accepted; or, it might be more accurate to say, it is often tacitly applied as a working tool without any direct acknowledgement of its shaky basis. If one rejects the intrinsic musical status of the pairs, for instance – seeing them as acts of compilation rather than composition – then chronology is immediately destroyed in any specific, if not altogether in a broader, sense. That some broader sense remains is apparent in the existence of like-minded groups of works through the Venice and Parma collections. Roughly speaking, this is most apparent in the sonatas now numbered in the K. 100s, 300s and 500s and much less so elsewhere. If one accepts the existence, if intermittent, of fairly homogeneous groupings, then are they the product of retrospective planning or a reflection of the composer’s various ‘creative periods’? Among those who believe that the groupings reflect a real chronological succession are Kenneth Gilbert, who tells us that the three successive colours used for his edition correspond to the three creative periods proposed by Kirkpatrick, youth, middle age and maturity.92 The standard developmental narrative is thus coloured in in the most literal way, as the colours on the covers change from a fiery red to a flourishing green to a rich gold. On the other hand, it has been suggested that that the compilers of the volumes were creating a sort of anthology, bringing together compositions with ‘common linguistic characteristics’.

Such decision-making, though, would have brought on a headache; how similar did sonatas have to be, for example, in order to qualify for such adjacency? While sonatas undoubtedly were brought together to make pairs on the basis of key, the notion that they were also brought together on the much wider and less quantifiable basis of style and language, in bulk, seems highly unlikely. The case of the sonatas in Parma VIII and IX (roughly equivalent to Venice VI and VII), as mostly found in Volume 7 of the Gilbert edition, seems to confirm this. The majority of these sonatas are so distinctive texturally, topically and even, it would appear, aesthetically, compared with the rest of Scarlatti’s output, that it is difficult to believe that they were not written in a delimited period, prompted by external considerations on which we can only speculate.94 The idea that they were written on and off throughout the composer’s career, closing off most of the avenues freely chosen by Scarlatti in the surrounding works, then brought together later, seems counterintuitive.

Uniting the concerns of chronology and pedagogy is Emilia Fadini, who offers the hypothesis that the Venice volumes of 1752–7 were ordered so as to provide a graduated keyboard course: the ‘didactic aspect of the production cannot be minimized’.95 She essentially offers a new telling of an old story with a series of technical crescendi, traced several times over until the final synthesis of the last volumes. Her grand plan certainly has a feel-good factor in the way it emphasizes the coherence of the Venice collections and skirts any nasty thoughts about chronology. The argument that most of the sonatas are e´tudes d’ex´ecution transcendante – or, on a lower level, quasi-didactic lessons – transparently acts as yet another attempt to avoid any awkward contemplation of the aesthetic character of the sonatas, never mind the source situation. Much to be preferred is Kathleen Dale’s optimism in the matter: because no chronology is known and hence we cannot follow ‘his development as a composer’, playing all the Scarlatti sonatas is ‘like journeying in a land where it is always spring’

That being said Chris Hail has researched the chronology and is quite optimistic about his results. You'll find some of his work here

https://web.archive.org/web/20141216234055/http://chrishail.net/

And a review of Hail's work by Barry Ife here

http://www.harpsichord.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SoundingBoard12.pdf

See what a hornets' nest you've unearthed.

« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 09:23:58 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Scion7

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #36 on: September 16, 2020, 09:37:35 AM »
The only one I have, besides downloads:

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Online Mandryka

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #37 on: September 16, 2020, 09:57:03 AM »
The only one I have, besides downloads:



If that's the one on the Rainer Schutze harpsichord I think it's very good. Sensitive and sometimes psychedelic , perfectly listenable instrument.  It's all the Scarlatti anyone with any sense really needs.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 10:03:21 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #38 on: September 16, 2020, 11:38:40 AM »
I must say am aware of the uncertainty as to the chronological order of the sonatas. However, I don't think I am wrong in assuming that those in an early classical form are most likely later than those of a baroque nature. There are groups that display a common characteristic, e. g. dense clustered chording but where these lie in Scarlatti's development remains unknown. Many of these sonatas were composed for the Queen and it is possible that her preferences may have had some influence.
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Every Scarlatti Sonata Ranked
« Reply #39 on: September 23, 2020, 12:29:24 PM »
The Pan label's LPs of earlier music had some striking covers, but were of varying interest musically; I tried to choose some of the better ones, when finding some in Copenhagen ...

Beckett BTW was a colourful and interesting character, related to Samuel Beckett https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._Beckett

https://www.discogs.com/Scarlatti-John-Beckett-Sonatas-For-Harpsichord/release/8521434

A search on Youtube revealed John Beckett's 1966 Scarlatti recording, so now one can enjoy his vigorous interpretation of some of Scarlatti's warhorse sonatas. I am particularly impressed by the way he plays K 517, very fast but well articulated and never rushed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF-xkcrHKBg
« Last Edit: September 23, 2020, 12:35:01 PM by (: premont :) »
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