Skip Sempe

Scarlatti: Duende / Pandora's Box

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This collection of 17 Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas isn't compiled systematically, but includes the favorites of harpsichordist and scholar Skip Sempé, and it's a diverse and attractive selection. Citing the strong Spanish influences on Scarlatti's writing, Sempé describes "Duende" as a Spanish term that refers to the mysterious power of an event or activity to move a person into a state of sensory overload, or even transcendence. It's this state that Sempé aims for in his performance of the sonatas. Consequently, his performances are far from reverential -- they are striking for the freedom and improvisatory-sounding energy he brings to them. Scarlatti apparently had a reputation for being a dazzling showman and Sempé isn't afraid to venture into the realm of breathtaking theatricality when appropriate. In several of the sonatas, Sempé "amplifies" the sound by adding a second harpsichord to improvise as a basso continuo instrument, reinforcing and highlighting the (original) solo part. Whether or not the practice has historical precedent, it can't be denied that the added volume and excitement give the more rambunctious sonatas a frenzied wildness that sounds exactly right. The Sonata in C, K 502, is certainly one of the oddest and most unpredictable pieces of Baroque music around, and the two-harpsichord treatment only adds to its punchiness, but Sempé creates a comparable ruckus from the equally quirky K 513, with only one instrument. He draws an emotional intensity from the quieter, slower sonatas as well. His playing, as well as that of his "accompanist" Olivier Fortin, is thrillingly virtuosic, and it's safe to say that in this engaging CD they succeed in creating the sense of duende to which they aspire. The album's distinctive take on the sonatas should make it of interest to anyone who already loves these pieces, and it's a fine introduction for the uninitiated. Paradizo's sound is clear and clean, but a little on the bright side, which is actually appropriate for this extroverted performance practice.

The album contains a bonus sample CD of 20 fine performances excerpted from 10 previously released CDs by Sempé's instrumental and vocal ensemble Capriccio Stravagante -- altogether a great deal!

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 04:32 Amazon
2 04:27 Amazon
3 05:55 Amazon
4 04:41 Amazon
5 02:09 Amazon
6 05:57 Amazon
7 03:58 Amazon
8 03:07 Amazon
9 03:47 Amazon
10 05:04 Amazon
11 02:59 Amazon
12 02:52 Amazon
13 02:34 Amazon
14 03:59 Amazon
15 01:21 Amazon
16 03:42 Amazon
17 02:11 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 05:08 Amazon
2 02:29 Amazon
3 03:11 Amazon
4 02:32 Amazon
5 04:25 Amazon
6 03:08 Amazon
7 02:37 Amazon
8 04:13 Amazon
9 04:12 Amazon
10 04:17 Amazon
Concert in G minor for 2 equal bass viols No. 48 ("Le raporté")
11 05:15 Amazon
12 02:22 Amazon
Les Triomphe des Arts, opera-ballet
13 02:58 Amazon
14 03:21 Amazon
Trio Sonata for organ No. 5 in C major, BWV 529 (BC J5)
15 05:18 Amazon
English Suite, for keyboard No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807 (BC L14)
16 03:06 Amazon
Overture, suite for recorder (or flute), strings & continuo in A minor, TWV 55:a2
17 02:18 Amazon
Concerto for recorder, viola da gamba, strings & continuo in A minor, TWV 52:a1
18 04:10 Amazon
Premier Livre de clavecin, Troisième Suite, Op. 12/3
19 02:24 Amazon
20 05:37 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick