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Michael Bailey
Blogcritics, April 2007

In the Twentieth Century, it was the prominent pianists from the former Eastern Bloc who championed the cause of Domenico Scarlatti and his Keyboard Sonatas. Russians Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels, Nikolai Demidenko, and Mikhail Pletnev, Hungarians Bele Bartok and András Schiff, Romanian Dinu Lipatti, Croatian Ivo Pogorelić all recorded Scarlatti sonatas on piano and all in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Joining this group is Novosibirsk-native Evgeny Zarafiants with his Volume 6 to Naxos’ Complete Keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.

Zarafiants approach to Scarlatti is most comparable to Jeno Jando’s Volume 3 in this series. Zarafiants introduces his collections with sprightly played sonatas that sound as if recorded on the harpsichord or pianoforte. This is best heard on the Sonata in E major, "K.135," marked "allegro" (and a very brisk allegro it is). His articulation is more precise than Horowitz with equal force and power.

Zarafiants transforms other sonatas, such as the Sonata in G major, "K.259," marked "andante" and Sonata in F major, "K.419," marked "Presto" drawing from them performances as if the music were composed yesterday. The pianist perfect casts Scarlatti’s “nursery rhyme” melodies as in Sonata in G major, "K.169," marked "allegro" and Sonata in C major, "K.502," marked "Allegro." Sonata in F major, "K.19" marked "Allegro" is played romantically as if Scarlatti were seeing beyond the Baroque horizon and past Classicism. The most contemplative piece is the Sonata in C sharp minor, "K.247," marked "Allegro" (perhaps a slow one). Scarlatti’s use of color is well served by Zarafiants, who endeavors to uncover all shades.

The Naxos Scarlatti series is uniformly fine. It is difficult to assign superiority to any one recording in the series. Evgeny Zarafiants makes a compelling musical argument for his Volume 6.

Evgeny Zarafiants was born in 1959 into a musical family where his father was an oboist and pianist and a member of the Kremlin military band. Zarafiants’ mother is a singer and pianist. The young pianist began studies with his father at six years old and by eight entered the Central Music School in Moscow. Before finishing his studies in Moscow, Zarafiants moved to Orsk and eventually completed his studies at the Glinka Conservatory in Gorky.

Zarafiants won prizes in the 1985 All-Russian Competition and in the Pogorelich Competition in Pasadena. Most recently, Zarafiants taught at the Conservatory in Nizhny Novgorod. His Naxos catalog includes, Scriabin: Preludes, Vol. 1 (8.553997) and Scriabin: Preludes, Vol. 2 (8.554145)

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group