Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Music Review: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 5 by Domenico Scarlatti

Unlikely as it may sound, American Ragtime composer Scott Joplin shares several artistic elements in common with Domenico Scarlatti. Both composed in multiple musical idioms, yet are best known for their keyboard composing. Within that idiom, both composers specialized in short pieces, or miniatures, which have typically been used as practice exercises. For those familiar with Joplin and not Scarlatti, these similarities may serve as a segue into the great Baroque composer’s keyboard repertoire.

Englishman Benjamin Frith approaches Scarlatti from a slightly more romantic angle than previous performers in this series. While on the romantic side, he does not make it into the frank romantic territory of Horowitz or the almost enigmatic post-modernism of Ivo Pogorelich. Firth lightly brushes on his romantic shades, never obscuring the Baroque pastels of the sonatas. This is best illustrated on the slower pieces such as the Sonata in B Flat Major, K.266, which has a slightly melancholy lullaby temperament as does the Sonata in A Major, K.536. In earlier entries in this series, these characteristics have been best shown in the slower minor-key compositions. Frith’s minor-key performances, such as the Sonata in G Minor, K.546 and the Sonata in B Minor, K.227 have less a lullaby quality and more a contemplative one. Solid and straightforward, Benjamin Frith’s Scarlatti is well informed and beautifully colored.

Benjamin Frith was born in South Yorkshire and from an early age studied with Fanny Waterman. At 14 he won the National Concerto Competition, followed by the Mozart Memorial Prize, the award for Young Concert Artists. His international career was further enhanced winning a Gold Medal at the 1989 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Israel. Frith’s Naxos catalog includes: Field: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 (8.553770); Field: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 (8.553771); Field: Piano Concertos Nos. 5 and 6 (8.554221); Field: Piano Music, Vol. 1 (8.550761); Field: Piano Music, Vol. 2 (8.550762); Mendelssohn: 6 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 35 / 3 Caprices, Op. 37 (8.550939); Mendelssohn: 7 Characteristic Pieces, Op. 7 / Fantasia, Op. 28 (8.553541); Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings / Violin Concerto in D minor (8.553844); Mendelssohn: Concertos for Two Pianos in A Flat Major and E Major (8.553416); Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Capriccio Brillant / Rondo Brillant (8.550681); Mendelssohn: Sonata in B Flat Major / Fantasies, Op. 16 (8.553186); Mendelssohn: Sonata in E Major / Variations serieuses / Preludes and Etudes, Op. 104 (8.550940); and Mendelssohn: Sonata in G Minor / Fantasia, Op. 15 / Variations, Op. 83 (8.553358).

Other releases in the Scarlatti Sonata series:

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3

Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 4

Sonata in C major, K.461/L.8/P.324: Allegro; Sonata in F major, K.82/L.30/P.25; Sonata in B Flat Major, K.266/L.48/P.251: Andante; Sonata in G major, K.284/L.90/P.169: Allegro ; Sonata in E flat major, K.507/L.113/P.478: Andantino cantabile; Sonata in D major, K.214/L.165/P.430: Allegro vivo; Sonata in A major, K.404/L.222/P.436: Andante; Sonata in G major, K.124/L.232/P.110: Allegro; Sonata in A major, K.536/L.236/P.540: Cantabile; Sonata in G major, K.494/L.287/P.444: Allegro; Sonata in G minor, K.546/L.312/P.550: Cantabile; Sonata in A major, K.113/L.345/P.160: Allegro; Sonata in B minor, K.227/L.347/P.52: Allegro; Sonata in A major, K.26/L.368/P.82: Presto; Sonata in C major, K.548/L.404/P.552: Allegretto; Sonata in C minor, K.37/L.406/P.2: Allegro.

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007