The recordings of French pianist Alice Ader are highly individualistic in an age of conformity in classical music, and this is doubtless cause for celebration. This selection of Domenico Scarlatti keyboard sonatas, played unapologetically with lots of pedal on a modern Steinway, is no exception at all when it comes to individualism, but you have to have at least some tolerance for absolutely old-school Scarlatti. Ironically, Ader said it was Wanda Landowska, a harpsichordist, who first turned her on to Scarlatti, and she notes inspiration for her interpretations in "the 'expressive rubato' that is the prerogative of harpsichordists' parlando." It is in this expressive rubato, ironically, that she departs even from most piano readings. Sample the Keyboard Sonata in C minor, K. 99, for a full exposure to the technique. The end result is that, when combined with the tremendous variety of articulation Ader applies to the music, Scarlatti comes out sounding like Schumann much of the time. If you're down with that, buy with confidence; the sonatas are sharply differentiated from one another and thought out from beginning to end. The program is nicely arranged, with a few simple, limpid pieces like the Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K. 32 (track 6), artfully placed as intermezzi among the dramatic readings. It's very odd to come to this album after hearing a good deal of historically informed Scarlatti performance; it's almost as though you're hearing a completely different composer. But Scarlatti, like Bach, stands up to wildly varying interpretation, and Ader's is supported by clear sonics from the IRCAM studios in Paris. Brief, personal notes are given in French, English, and German.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim