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Scarlatti keyboard sonatas

Joanna Leach (square piano)

Divine Art 23025


This disc fits into the semi-authentic category – that is, the instrument is from the past and is therefore authentic of its own period, but it is not specifically linked to the repertoire on the disc. The piano is Leach's own Stodhart square piano of 1823.


Leach's performances are characterised by clarity of thought and texture; they are intimate, measured, satisfying. Their neat musicality lacks the last grain of virtuosity. Many Scarlatti ‘favourites', such as Kk380 and Kk491 are to be found on the disc.


Some intellectual sleight of hand is usually necessary to link a period instrument contingently available with what is recorded, since the connection is by definition post hoc . In this case, one could easily argue that Scarlatti wrote demonstrably virtuosic, display pieces, and wrote them in a context of domestic performance (it is well known that his keyboard sonatas were principally written for Princess Maria Barbara of Portugal , who became Queen of Spain). The square piano clearly gives a suitably intimate sound, and its light action suits the rapidity of the notes. Great pianists of the past, such as Horowitz, who frequently programmed Scarlatti, themselves favoured light pianos.


As the booklet explains, Leach was originally a performer on modern pianos, but found period instruments suited her approach. The Athene label, which is now part of the Divine Art stable, was a way of setting down her distinctive and thoughtful interpretations, among which her Haydn and John Field are especially well regarded.


Good modern recorded sound, and Divine Art's usual crisp presentation. We also learn from the notes that Joanna Leach's long and distinguished career has been seriously threatened by illness; her determination to continue recording is all the more to be commended.


Ying Chang