Among the 21st century harpsichordists who have recorded the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, Pierre Hantaï has emerged as a major interpreter, not only for his continuing series of Scarlatti releases on Mirare but for discovering new things in pieces that frequently depend on the element of surprise. Hantaï's playing is highly energetic and virtuosic, though he never treats Scarlatti's sonatas as mere displays of technique; he also includes personal expressive touches (by way of flexible tempos, phrasing, and ornamentation) that prevent these pieces from seeming like dry exercises. While, in many cases, the sonatas were intended as study pieces for Princess Maria Barbara of Portugal, they attain levels of inventiveness and originality that elevate them to a higher artistic plane. Hantaï's keyboard is bright and percussive with a crisp edge, and he employs the full range of timbres to vary the program, which includes exquisitely embellished cantabile pieces as well as joyous dances, all influenced by the Spanish and French music Scarlatti encountered in his years in Portugal and Spain. This is the sixth volume in Hantaï's Scarlatti project, which began in 2002, and saw releases in 2006, 2016, and 2017, as well as a boxed set of 50 Sonatas, which came out in 2014. Despite the gaps between the years, Hantaï is fully engaged in this body of work, both as a performer and scholar, and his vitality and imagination show no signs of flagging.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson