Continuum Scarlatti:Ligeti

Justin Taylor harpsichord
69:20
Alpha Classics ALPHA 399

If you like your Scarlatti harpsichord music spiced with Ligeti, then this is the CD you have been waiting for. Issued under the umbrella of ‘outhere music’ (presumably ‘out there’ rather than ‘out here’), these performances by the young French harpsichordist Justin Taylor aim to let the music of two vastly different periods engage in a musical dialogue. Taylor’s playing of the Scarlatti repertoire is stunningly good – I am less able to judge his playing of the Ligeti but this also seems deeply idiomatic and effective. Indeed, although I am not a natural fan of this type of recontextualization, I found myself drawn into this project in spite of myself. So in fact, for me, the Ligeti did comment on the Scarlatti and vice versa, although I do wonder whether such dialogues are better designed for concerts rather than CDs – how often will I want to hear this dialogue repeated? Anyway, as I have said, the Scarlatti performances stand very much on their own merits as well, so it would be entirely possible to ‘program out’ the Ligeti should you so wish, and there would still be a highly enjoyable programme to listen to. Grouping the individual Scarlatti movements into three-movement pseudo-sonatas, Taylor seems to find the ideal balance between momentum and rhythmical freedom, never seeming to linger just for the sake of it and always maintaining momentum. He plays a Ruckers harpsichord made in 1638 (and adapted in 1763 by Hemsch) which has an appropriately bright tone for the Scarlatti – and, for that matter, also seems to suit the Ligeti well.

D. James Ross

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  • Performance
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