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Michael Bailey
Blogcritics, April 2007

Hungarian pianist Jenö Jandó may rightly be proclaimed the utility infielder of classical piano. Jandó has on his resume all of Mozart's piano sonatas and piano concertos, every Beethoven sonata, every Haydn sonata, both volumes of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier as well as Bartok's complete piano concertos. He is currently recording Schubert sonatas and Bartok's complete piano music for Naxos. With this kind of output, one might surmise that maestro Jandó would have recorded the complete Scarlatti sonatas himself, which, if Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 3 is indication, would have been just fine.

A byproduct of having such a broad repertoire is often a conservative approach to the letter (or note) of the music. Jandó is no exception to this. His Scarlatti is played on piano as the listener would expect to hear it on the harpsichord. In fact, so tart and precise is the sound in the opening four sonatas that they almost sound as if they were performed on the immediate precursor to the modern piano (Hammerklavier), the fortepiano. Delightful is Jandó’s playing on the K. 261 B Major and K. 70 B-Flat Major sonatas, where his precise approach makes the piano sing (no pedals here). He achieves pounding fortissimos and bell-like pianissimos with equal aplomb.

Jandó’s conservative approach in no way dampens the musical personality beneath. Jandó has a beautifully radiant tone and facility. He skips effortlessly through the K. 444 D Minor sonata with its allegrissimo pace. On perhaps the finest performance on the disc, Jandó takes the K. 54 D Major sonata from Horowitz, making it a delicate elegy of memory and longing. Jandó’s thought is crystalline and his performance as delicate as smoke. This is a sublime five minutes of music. The K. 203 E Minor sonata is beautifully modulated from figure to figure, through one of Scarlatti’s more complex compositional structures. Jandó carefully takes his time approaching what Kirkpatrick called “the crux” before further elaborating the performance after it. Jandó’s sense of balance never allows him to hurry, producing performances of uniform rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic density.

Jenö Jandó was born in Pecs, in southern Hungary, where he was taught piano by his mother. This was followed by formal study at the Liszt Academy, under the tutelage of Katalin Nemes and Paul Kadosa. Jandó experienced several competition successes including the Cziffra, Ciani, and Beethoven Piano Competitions. Jenö Jandó was one of the first artists to record for Naxos when it was still a young company. At the time, the producers wanted to release some of the better-known Beethoven piano sonatas. After hearing Jandó’s demo tape, they chose him for the whole lot… and a lot, lot more.

Terry Barfoot
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"Domenico Scarlatti as born in 1785, the same year as Bach and Handel, and studied in Naples with his father Alessandro and in Venice with Francesco Gasparini; in Venice, indeed, he met Handel, who was in the city to advance his understanding of the Italian opera. Thereafter Scarlatti travelled widely: he worked in Rome, London, and Lisbon, before returning home to Naples in 1725. Four years later he moved to Madrid, where he lived for practically all his remaining years.

Scarlatti is chiefly famous for his five hundred and fifty keyboard sonatas, a body of work which developed the expressive range of this musical genre to an extraordinary degree. In common with his exact contemporary Bach, he wrote for the harpsichord with such verve and imagination that his music sounds equally well (if not better) on the modern piano; indeed it has rightly become a standard feature of the repertoire. The structures of the sonatas are considerably varied; the two featured here are both single movements.

This is Volume 3 in Naxos's Scarlatti project with the Hungarian pianist Jenö Jandó, who has already made recordings galore with the company in a wide range of repertoire. He is on excellent form here, playing with imagination, taste and dexterity, as required. For the nature of these pieces varies considerably from one to the next _ they are a veritable treasure trove of imaginative and engaging music. To prove the point just try the G major Sonata with which the CD begins. It makes compelling listening, such is the imagination at the heart of Scarlatti's inventiveness.

Jandó is at his very best in what is perhaps the strangest of the pieces collected here, the B major Sonata, K261. This unusual key certainly generated a distinctive response from the composer: after a fairly innocuous beginning, there is an obsessive insistence on repetitions of a single note as the music develops, and these performances capture the strange and compelling nature of the music with great imagination.

The recording too does justice to Scarlatti, with a nicely atmospheric presence and warmth, as well as a pleasing clarity which allows all the details of the music's extraordinary textures to be heard. With so many sonatas to his credit, it is inevitably tempting to think that Scarlatti composed merely to a formula. But nothing could be further from the truth, and this excellent disc serves him the music well."

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