Scarlatti wrote no less than 555 piano sonatas and it’s perhaps not surprising that of the 23 played on this CD set I had only heard one previously – K14 in G major played by Vladimir Horowitz. Australian pianist Ian Holtham does not suffer by comparison, his playing is brilliant and many of the works featured on the CD are extremely difficult technically, particularly the superb K435, added as a bonus. In fact, it seems to me that Scarlatti excels in pieces that are either very fast or very slow. I just wish my favourite K 380 was included!
Ian had the original idea to divide the sonatas into four groups each played on one of the Steinway Model D pianos at the Melbourne Conservatorium, matching them with the specific tonal attributes of the instruments. The sonatas are brilliant and make easy listening while Ian lives up to his already well-established reputation. However even on top quality audio equipment it was impossible for me to detect the different tonal qualities in the four sections. Hopefully, if I can make it to Melbourne, Professor Holtham will play them for me, probably best behind screens, to see if I can detect the tonal nuances of the four pianos.
Tony Burke 30/3 2022
Professor Ian Holtham is one of the most distinguished and highly regarded pianists and pedagogues in Australia and his performances of the great Classical and Romantic repertoire have played to packed houses and rave reviews for many years.
The remarkable output of 555 Keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) remains one of the most original compositional contributions in Western Art Music.
CD-1 opens with five Sonatas around the parallel tonic C/a; then six Sonatas around related minor tonalities up to four flats.
CD-2 begins with six Sonatas around related major tonalities up to four sharps; concluding with five Sonatas (plus one envoi) around the parallel tonic D/b, arguably Scarlatti’s most expressive and varied tonal area.