This is the second recording made by Byron Schenkman on instruments preserved in the National Music Museum in Vermilion USA. In contrast to his earlier one (‘The Art of the Harpsichord’) this CD concentrates on a single composer, Domenico Scarlatti. Schenkman has chosen four instruments to represent the variety of keyboards prevalent in the generation following Scarlatti’s death in 1757. The earliest is a fortepiano by Manuel Antunes built in Lisbon in 1767; there is also a single-manual Portuguese harpsichord in Florentine style from 1790, the only surviving instrument by José Calisto. Then there are two big double-manual harpsichords, one made by Jacques Germain in Paris in 1785 and the other by Joseph Kirckman in 1798. The twenty sonatas are well chosen to demonstrate the differences between the instruments. In the liner notes John Koster quotes Ralph Kirkpatrick’s observation that Scarlatti’s writing was too colourful to need a wide variety of registers. The Calisto harpsichord with its resonant bass certainly bears this out, but it is also good to have the Kirckman’s machine stop to do full justice to Scarlatti’s echoes and crescendos in K248. K208 shows off the fortepiano’s cantabile while K61’s variations put the same instrument through its paces. The bright C major K100 suits the brashness of the Germain harpsichord. Schenkman’s playing is exemplary: clear, without affectation and with subtle ornamentation. He has chosen a good mix of well-known and lesser-known sonatas, all in pairs apart from K61. John Koster has once again provided highly informative notes on the instruments and the music. In a very crowded field, this Scarlatti recording sticks out for the intelligence and bravura of the playing and the chance to hear four outstanding period instruments in top condition.
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