Joseph Moog

Scarlatti Illuminated

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Even though this album is not for purists, Joseph Moog's Scarlatti Illuminated is a curious investigation into transcriptions that seldom see the light of day, and the insightful program shows how Scarlatti's music was treated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alongside several of Scarlatti's original keyboard sonatas, which Moog plays with clarity and restraint, are elaborated versions for piano, arranged by Carl Tausig and Ignaz Friedman, as well as Walter Gieseking's Chaconne on a Theme by Scarlatti, a freely composed post-Romantic work replete with all the flashy techniques available to a virtuoso. Scarlatti's originals have become familiar to modern listeners, whether in performances and recordings on harpsichord or piano, but they were once fairly obscure pieces that were explored only by students and Baroque specialists. The "dressing up" of the sonatas for the modern grand piano is similar to the more familiar transcriptions of J.S. Bach's music by Franz Liszt, Ferruccio Busoni, Alfred Cortot, Alexander Siloti, and others who popularized Baroque keyboard music and felt it sounded to best advantage with modern pianistic touches. It's not obvious from the performances how Moog feels about these practices and arrangements, or how he intends his audience to react, though it is certain that he gives these transcriptions a fair hearing and demonstrates his skill in both Baroque and Romantic styles. Onyx provides clean reproduction, so most details of the music are audible, though the Scarlatti originals have the brightest sound.

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