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Michael Bailey
Blogcritics, April 2007

American pianist Michael Lewin takes on the second batch in Naxos’ set of The Complete Keyboard Sonatas by Italian Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti. The recital is fairly evenly distributed by Kirkpatrick designation and reveals a cautious and studied hand on the part of Lewin. As I suspect will be the model for all subsequent volumes in this series, the disc opens with a bright major-key sonata, qualified as presto. In this case it is the D Major Sonata, K. 492, which Lewin infuses with a subtle momentum behind the hop-scotch melody, exuding a bright happiness. Lewin sets his performance bar high and keeps to that level throughout the recital.

Lewin performs several sonatas in common with those pianists before him. As one would suspect, he is most closely comparable with Mikhail Pletnev on sonatas K. 3 in A Minor, K. 141 in D Minor, and K. 213 in D Minor. Lewin also possesses a similar carefully considered approach as Andras Schiff on sonatas K. 27 in B Minor and K. 517 in D Minor. The more slowly paced of these sonatas (K. 213 andante) is beautifully played, displaying Scarlatti’s affinity for slower, minor-key compositions. Lewin and Horowitz share several sonatas, K. 33 D Major, K. 322 A Major, K. 146 G Major, and K. 39 A Major. Lewin consistently stays within his vigilant performance lines on all but the A Major where he plays with all of the unabashed gusto, if not brute force, of Horowitz.

Disc highlights, as with Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1, are found in minor key sonatas. Sonata K. 481 in F Minor is graciously played with a gently considered tempo, andante cantabile. Sonata K. 517 in D Minor is quite the contrast to K. 481, Lewin hitting the nitro switch while modulating through one of Scarlatti’s more complex exercises. Michael Lewin’s contribution to the Naxos Complete Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti inspires this listener the desire to hear the next installment.

Michael Lewin studied with Leon Fleisher and Yvonne Lefebure at the Juilliard School of Music. Following wins at the Kapell International Piano, Beethoven Fellowship, and Liszt Piano Competitions, he began an international career throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. Lewin has appeared with the Netherlands Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Phoenix Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Colorado Springs Symphony and the Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico. He lives in Boston, where he teaches at the Boston Conservatoire. Lewin has previously recorded for Naxos the piano works of American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes 3 Tone Pictures / De Profundis / Sonata (8.223850) and Piano Works (8.559023, 8.225163, and 2 8.559046).

John Bell Young
Clavier, March 2000

"Domenico Scarlatti's approximately 550 keyboard sonatas are models of expressive brevity. Unlike Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata, which takes nearly an hour to play, Scarlatti's longest sonatas last just seven or eight minutes. This kind of economy makes it possible for Michael Lewin to fit nearly two dozen of them on a splendid recording, Domenico Scarlatti, Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Volume 2.

"Instead of the tiptoeing-on-eggs variety of Scarlatti interpretations, Lewin realizes the sonatas for what they are: audacious character pieces. Remarkable for their unabashed vigor, his crisply articulated performances preserve the musical declamation at the heart of baroque convention. While fully cognizant of the idiosyncratic style of the sonatas, Lewin does not try to reproduce the plucked sound and articulation of a harpsichord on a modern piano; he makes the most of the instrument's sonorities. He neither sentimentalizes nor romanticizes these sonatas, preferring to illuminate their bold harmonic structures and tightly woven forms.

"This kind of clearheaded but simple approach to Scarlatti serves the music well. Lewin's more masculine readings may surprise those accustomed to Horowitz's elaborately embroidered and sometimes fussy interpretations of Scarlatti. Lewin is, however, no less adept at conveying Scarlatti's effects such as double thirds, hand crossings, and widely spaced leaps.

"The Naples-born Scarlatti may have derived some of these when he moved to Spain in 1729. In the two D major sonatas, K. 492 and K.33, evocations of guitars and flamenco dancing liven up the implicit decorum of the form. Lewin emphasizes the music's festive, even wild character, making no apologies for its exuberance and rhythmic vivacity.

"Even in more familiar works such as the docile K. 322 in A major or the wistful K. 109 in A minor, Lewin brings to light the dance elements without sacrificing their appealing melodies.This he manages admirably and with gusto."

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, February 2000

"A promising start to another colossal series, the complete sonatas of Scarlatti, here performed with panache by Michael Lewin."

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