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Scarlatti on Fortepiano
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Scarlatti on Fortepiano
David Schrader, fortepiano
Cedille Records CDR 90000 042

"One can coax colors out of the [fortepiano] by the manner and strength in which the keys are struck. Mr. Schrader takes full advantage of this and makes these sonatas take on a special character on the instrument. These performances are uniquely sparking and enjoyable . . . Schrader is a player who always has something bright and energetic to say in his playing and, in its way, this is a virtuoso disc. It will set many a toe tapping to the lively Spanish rhythms and irresistible melodies in these wonderful pieces." (Red Magazine)

Scarlatti on Fortepiano sheds new light on Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas and the early piano, or "fortepiano," of the composer's own time. The fortepiano, available to Scarlatti (1685-1757) in the royal palaces of Spain, was part of his sonic world. Yet the many Scarlatti sonata recordings on the market typically employ harpsichord or modern piano.

Paradoxically, most fortepiano recordings offer music of the Classical and early Romantic periods, many of whose composers were starting to outgrow the early piano's capabilities, observes recording producer Jim Ginsburg. "On fortepiano, Scarlatti's baroque sonatas present the performer with interpretive opportunities, rather than constraints," he says.

Keyboard artist David Schrader, a virtuoso on both harpsichord and fortepiano, says he tried to select, from among Scarlatti's 550 sonatas, those that benefit from the fortepiano's unique sound and its ability to employ "dynamic variation for the purpose of phrasing." Some of these sonatas (actually single-movement exercises) are quintessentially Spanish, while others show Scarlatti's "Roman" Italian side.

"All these pieces blossom in new ways through the fortepiano's expressive dynamics and tantalizing timbres," Ginsburg says. "This is no carbon-copy Scarlatti."

In an essay in the CD booklet, David Sutherland, builder of the fortepiano heard on the CD, outlines historical evidence that "Scarlatti knew and loved the piano . . . that he was, in short, the first of the great pianist-composers in the line that runs through Mozart and Beethoven and the great romantic lions to Bartok and Prokofiev in our own century."

Highlights of the 79-minute CD include the sonata K. 52, with its four (and sometimes five) distinct voices -- and a richness of harmony and counterpoint that's almost Brahmsian. The fast-fingered virtuosity of K. 517 seems to anticipate the pearling sound of much later piano music. The Andalusian harmony and vigorous dance rhythms of Scarlatti's Spanish-style K. 239 contrasts with the sweetness, purity, and innocent festivity of the Roman-syle K. 513. The witty and capricious K. 405, Schrader writes, "conjures up Beethoven in a very light (and slightly manic) vein, specifically the scherzo from Symphony No. 7."

Schrader performs on Sutherland's mint-condition modern replica of a 1726 instrument: the last surviving piano built by Bartolomeo Cristofori, the Italian instrument maker who invented the piano around 1700. The pleasing sound of this "new" fortepiano, built for the Schubert Club of St. Paul, Minnesota, demonstrates that "early piano sound need not be painful," Cedille's Ginsburg says.
Click here to download the CD booklet.

Click the Cedille Player at the upper left to hear excerpts from the tracks highlighted in red below. These have been carefully chosen as representative of the recording program.

PROGRAM (79:00)

1. Sonata in C major, K. 132, Cantabile (6:40)
2. Sonata in C minor, K. 129, [Allegro] (4:12)
3. Sonata in F minor, K. 386, Presto (3:14)
4. Sonata in F major, K. 44, Allegro (5:55)
5. Sonata in G minor, K. 43, Allegrissimo (4:12)
6. Sonata in A major, K. 209, Allegro (4:13)
7. Sonata in D minor, K. 434, Andante (4:50)
8. Sonata in C minor, K. 84, [Allegro] (3:29)
9. Sonata in F minor, K. 239, Allegro (3:31)
10. Sonata in C major, K. 513, Pastorale: Moderato (5:38)
11. Sonata in C minor, K. 158, Andante (4:19)
12. Sonata in A major, K. 113, Vivo (4:39)
13. Sonata in D minor, K. 52, Andante moderato (6:12)
14. Sonata in F minor, K. 519, Allegro assai (3:53)
15. Sonata in A major, K. 405, Allegro (3:15)
16. Sonata in C major, K. 308, Cantabile (4:26)
17. Sonata in D minor, K. 64, Gavota: Allegro (1:59)
18. Sonata in D minor, K. 517, Prestissimo (3:20)

Recorded: December 1997, Landmark Center, St. Paul, Minnesota / Producers: James Ginsburg & Burke Morton / Engineer: Bill Maylone / Cover: rendition of piano by Jack Simmerling; painting of Scarlatti by Domingo A. Velasco (1738) / Design: Cheryl A Boncuore / Notes: David Sutherland / Piano: A modern replica of the 1726 piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori built by David Sutherland for The Schubert Club, St. Paul, Minnesota.