Soyeon Lee

Scarlatti: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 8

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This group of Domenico Scarlatti keyboard sonatas from an ongoing Naxos series presents what can fairly be called an old-fashioned approach to the composer's music, although that's not to say anything against it. The young Korean American pianist Soyeon Lee harks back to the times when pianists phrased Scarlatti a good deal like Mozart, who himself was viewed through the prism of Romanticism. In place of the percussive harpsichord rhythms and sharp contrasts of recent Scarlatti performances, you get pedal, gracefully shaped phrases, and a smoothing of the edges of Scarlatti's style. Lee has a nice way of shining a light on Scarlatti's dissonances even as she emphasizes the symmetries and balance in his music, and her performance is graceful and appealingly lyrical throughout. Listen to her reading of one of the slower sonatas, such as the Sonata in B minor, K. 87 (track 6), or better still play it for someone without identifying it and see if you can elicit a guess of a much later composer. The performance works on Lee's terms. On the other hand, if there is one fundamental way that historical performance has changed conceptions of this composer, it is that such performances have brought out the role that Spanish vernacular rhythms played in his music. The listener who has heard crisp harpsichord of works such as the Sonata in C major, K. 420 (track 3), may have a hard time going into reverse gear and hearing Lee's restrained performance here with fresh ears. Still, for those who have always liked Scarlatti on a piano, or who simply don't wish to see one orthodoxy replace another, this disc will make a nice addition to a Scarlatti collection.

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