Bertrand Cuiller

Scarlatti, Soler: Sonatas per cimbalo & Fandango

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One of the prime interpretive puzzles in the performance of Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas, which have as many performance styles as there are keyboardists, is the degree to which their characteristically Spanish elements ought to be emphasized. Those elements are certainly present in the music, but they can be presented as anything from subtle flavorings to fundamental creative inspiration. French harpsichordist Bertrand Cuiller, a student of Christophe Rousset and Pierre Hantaï, certainly falls near the latter end of the spectrum, and he has produced a Scarlatti recording that offers a great deal of visceral appeal. Playing an Italian-inspired harpsichord by the contemporary French builder Philippe Humeau, he punches out the rhythms with the left hand in the instrument's powerful lower register. First sample one of the quick sonatas, such as the Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K. 115 (track 9), where the sharp rhythms and glittering descending lines in the right hand may easily bring to mind the crisp yet dramatic moves of a Spanish dancer. Then try one of the slower sonatas, where Cuiller's moody readings remind one of the old Romantic piano approaches, only played on the right instruments this time. Then proceed to the centerpiece, the great Fandango of Antonio Soler (track 5), which mounts in rhythmic excitement as it reaches a level of pure flamenco influence that Scarlatti never did , but that you hear lurking everywhere under the surface here. With the added bonuses of superb sound and a wonderful essay by art historian Denis Grenier on Goya's The Parasol, whose green umbrella is as Spanish and as utterly original as Scarlatti's music, this is an immensely satisfying one-disc Scarlatti/Soler release.

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