Christian Zacharias

Scarlatti: Sonatas

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Controversy often surrounds Christian Zacharias because his unorthodox but carefully researched interpretations of the Classical and Romantic repertoire break traditional taboos and sometimes sound shocking to jaded ears. True to form, Zacharias brings his scholarly insights and originality to the Baroque sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and performs them with a historian's sense of their idiom and a pianist's recognition of their expressive potential. Written for the harpsichord, Scarlatti's sonatas need to be played crisply and cleanly on the piano, without much pedaling; yet this does not mean they should be played dryly or mechanically. Zacharias often imitates the harpsichord's tone in his light touch and his tightly executed ornaments. But he also takes advantage of the piano's responsiveness and greater dynamic range, and plays the music with smooth, natural phrasing and avoids the pedantic pitfall of terraced dynamics, which sound lifeless on the piano. The even balance between what is historically appropriate and what is practicable on the piano makes sense musically, and what Zacharias has done for Scarlatti, in expressive depth and intellectual coherence, is comparable to the feeling and thought Glenn Gould brought to Bach. MDG's direct sound is clear and vibrant, though the acoustics may be too resonant for some tastes.

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