Variety of tone and expression key to Sudbin's success



D. SCARLATTI: 18 Sonatas
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
BIS 2138

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I initially thought that knowing Gramophone had chosen this as their CD of the month could prejudice my listening, for better or worse. A mere first listening relieves one of all such prejudice, not only because the CD is obviously played well. It is, but what is more, is the personal touch Sudbin brings to these sonatas, in such a manner that the listener is able to contribute to the interpretation process. In other words, this CD is an invitation to Scarlatti, to demonstrate, and what is more, to allow us to enjoy, how variable the composer’s emotional range was.
The CD starts courageously with the less attractive but more sophisticated K417 and soon thereafter an authoritarian and rhythmically unchallengeable K159, the K59 and K208 sound a bit mundane as we start listening. But those two may be the only ordinary sounding sonatas on disc. Things get only better with each sonata thereafter. Note the transparency of K425 or K32 and compare it with the radiance of K69 or K318. All four sonatas avoid simplistic readings and concentrate on a perfect balance of both hands and a tone that rises and sinks, but sinks deep, as the modulations progress. Another case in point is the well-known K9; its urgent rendition is so different than the accentuated haste of K141. The K9 is a fresh reading combining pianistic brilliance with an exciting sweep of ideas. The sonatas have been perfectly ordered too. K12’s economic use of gestures prepares the listener for a broader vision in the K479, which shows a broader universe. There are other interesting couplings too such as the restlessness of K125 as it prepares us to the devilish K373 and how those two change our perception of the K119, a sonata in major yet with an underlying tension. Sudbin adds a spared Bachian grandeur in calmness to only a few of the sonatas, such as the K99. Virtuosity is spared only carcely, such as the K29, and then with a musical purpose. Of all these, though, my favourite is the other-wordly rendition of the beautiful K213 sonata, where each repetition is coloured differently and an inspired, almost live performance is caught on tape.
A Scarlatti disc that can match the old masters, worthy of comparison and one to listen to frequently.

Feyzi Erçin



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