Pieter-Jan Belder

Sonatas K. 270-317

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The young Dutch harpsichordist Pieter-Jan Belder has undertaken the gargantuan task of recording all of Domenico Scarlatti's some 550 keyboard sonatas. A student of Bob van Asperen, he has a dry, straightforward style without the overall vision of Richard Lester's stirring set, but counterbalancing that is the budget price of these releases on the Netherlands' by-the-pound (or kilogram) classical label Brilliant. That label's approach shows up in the editing of the booklet notes by Clemens Romijn. Largely dedicated in this volume to establishing the legitimacy of performing Scarlatti on a fortepiano rather than a harpsichord, which Belder sometimes does on other volumes in the set, they are irrelevant to the present volume, which contains no fortepiano at all. One of the distinctive features of Belder's cycle, indeed, is that he ranges through the various instruments that might have been known to Scarlatti, including various harpsichords, fortepianos, and even an organ. The second disc in this set includes a pair of sonatas explicitly designated for the organ, among the few of that type in Scarlatti's entire output. The rest of the first two discs, however, is centered on a single harpsichord, a modern copy of an instrument by seventeenth century Italian maker Giusti. The instrument is recorded in two different Dutch churches, creating a slightly different sound to no really discernible effect. The third disc features a copy of an instrument by a different seventeenth century maker, Ruckers; it has a weightier tone that serves the fundamentally aggressive Scarlatti well. The other distinctive feature of the Belder set is that he performs the sonatas in the order of the catalog compiled by Ralph Kilpatrick, which comes close to but does not replicate the ordering in the various publications of Scarlatti's sonatas from his own time. Kilpatrick tended to group sonatas into related pairs, and Belder picks up this thread and elaborates it nicely (try out the E minor Andante-Allegro pair on CD 2, tracks 5 and 6). Belder continues to provide good value for the price in this box, although the buyer who wants to try out just a single volume will find the virtues of his cycles better illustrated elsewhere.

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