David's Review Corner
, August 2007
Domenico Scarlatti was almost totally forgotten until the second half of the 20th century, though there were champions who tried to reinstate his harpsichord works updated as piano pieces. The Spanish publisher Vidal y Limona felt that they had such a duty and entrusted the task of transcribing 26 sonatas to a young Spaniard, Enrique Granados. He took on the assignment with such zeal that he was soon improving on the originals to the point of recomposing, often changed the nature of the piece. In his notes with the discs, Douglas Riva, who is recording the complete Granados for Naxos, at times defends Granados, but has to admit that the results do not always serve the best interests of Scarlatti. I know what he means as I would burn every Scarlatti transcription on the basis of musical heresy. Yet we must not be hard on Granados, who did have the musical honesty of never hiding behind supposed 'authenticity'. He gave us Scarlatti as seen through the eyes of Chopin; variations on a theme of Scarlatti, and an abundance of dynamics that has Scarlatti in the style of Brahms. In fact he often takes us so far from Scarlatti I begin to enjoy these as original pieces. How little the Spanish knew of their great composer comes in the fact they even managed to include two pieces who were not his. My heading shows the order of Granados's work converted back to the catalogue numbers through which we now recognise Scarlatti's music. Maybe Riva wanted to make amends by playing the music in the clipped style of the harpsichord to introduce an element of the original scores. He does so with good taste, as one would expect from someone who has spent considerable time promoting Granados. Turn to track 6 of the second disc, an A minor sonata L109, and sample the innocent charm Riva brings to so many of the sonatas. As always there is excellent clarity in his playing, and though he has to shape the music as Granados imposes, I like his tempos and the subtle way he treats the ornamentation written out by Granados. The sound quality is immaculate from this outstanding UK source - would that all piano recordings were as good.