The early fortepiano used by Alain Planès in this recording of Scarlatti's Essercizi is the perfect instrument for these works in many ways. It has the sound of a harpsichord, but allows some of the expressive capabilities of a piano through the use of two knee levers. The action of the fortepiano does not allow for as much alteration of tone through touch as a modern piano would, which generally means that the notes have the detached, metallic sound of a harpsichord. And although most of Planès' previous recordings have been of Romantic music, here he holds back on the sentiment to stay truer to a Baroque reading. He typically only uses the damper on repeats of entire sections and uses the sostenuto lever only occasionally, particularly to add contrast to repeated figures. All of which is to say that these are not just boring, old keyboard exercises. Planès adds just enough detail to give the sonatas more enlivened and engaging character than they might have in a strictly Baroque reading. There are times when the Prestos could be faster, but even though Scarlatti really didn't intend these to be more than stylized dances and studies of Baroque forms, Planès still gets the toes tapping with his imaginative playing.
AllMusic Review by Patsy Morita
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2