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Laura RĂ³nai
Fanfare, January 2009

For those who know Scarlatti and know they like it on the piano, this disc is definitely recommended, as well as for fans of Romantic music who are seeking a first encounter with the music of the 18th century.

C. Michael Bailey
Blogcritics, August 2008

Naxos Records’ newest addition to its ongoing survey of Domenico Scarlatti’s complete piano sonatas is a carefully considered and intentionally paced affair. Rather than opening the recital with a gang-buster presto, pianist Francesco Nicolosi chooses Scarlatti’s D minor sonata, K. 52, marked something considerable less than allegro. Nicolosi approached the piece as Daniel Barenboim did Bach’s Goldbergs in 1991, slowly, thoughtfully, and romantically.

This minor key composition (K. 52) was found in the fourteenth of the Scarlatti’s Venice albums of 1742. It was one of the master’s earliest slow movements, already betraying a fully formed vision and sound. It is one of several minor key compositions populating this recording. All reveal Scarlatti as a master of pre-Romantic musical thought, an ability to tap into the dark chocolate soul of minor keys to pull out the rich decadent center, exposing it for the musical delight that it is.

Nicolosi proves equally adept at interpreting these difficult pieces as illustrated in his performances of The Sonata in D minor, K.77 and The Sonata in D minor, K.176. The pianist treats these pieces respectfully, never turning up the heat enough to melt them. Nicolosi justifies every nuance and pedal depression with a palpably integrated execution full of pathos and light.

The Sonatas in G major, K.79 and C major, K.170 both show spontaneity in Nicolosi’s performances revealing the multidimensional character in his playing. Nicolosi, perhaps better any other contributor to the series, captures the spirit of Horowitz’s famous interpretation shining with that master’s determination and dedication. This is a wholly satisfying set as all of the releases have been.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, June 2008

I enjoyed Nicolosi’s recordings of all the Mozart Variations (on 3 Naxos CDs). The label’s planned traversal of all 550+ of Scarlatti’s 2-part keyboard sonatas is well underway with this ninth volume. But given that the piano did not exist in Scarlatti’s time, its use is questionable. Most recordings of these works are performed on the originally-intended harspichord, which can sound much more exciting than the mellower piano.

Jed Distler, June 2008

The pianist’s excellent technique particularly shines in the G major K. 79’s scurrying figurations, although a lighter, more supple touch and greater variety of nuance would elevate the two A major pieces (K. 344 and K. 456) from good to memorable. Furthermore, the lyrical D minor K. 77 finds Nicolosi’s attention fixed on the right-hand line, while the left hand mostly remains in the background. By all means, acquire this release if you’re collecting the Naxos Scarlatti cycle as it appears…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

There are three ways that you can play Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas on a modern grand piano.Firstly you can cut every not short in the hope it will sound something like a harpsichord; use a few quirky rhythms and pretend it is ‘period authenticity, or simply play them as 19th century piano pieces. So as not to be typecast, the Italian pianist, Francesco Nicolosi, uses all three as evidenced by the different approach between the first two tracks. That at least makes for interesting comparisons in this ongoing series of modern piano recordings. Born into an Italian musical family of considerable importance, Domenico became one of the greatest harpsichord exponents of the early 18th century, eventually settling in Spain where he died in 1757. He was known to have composed over five hundred and fifty sonatas of varying length and complexity, most probably written in Spain and may have been intended as teaching exercises, the whole making up a fascinating traversal of keyboard technique. Heard on the harpsichord they are wonderful in their pungency and vibrancy and cannot be equally recaptured on any other instrument. Nicolosi has chosen thirteen contrasting pieces from those displaying brevity. A player of admirable technique who finds more shades in the music than would have been possible on the harpsichords of Scarlatti’s time, he also introduces many subtle rubatos. For an example of his art go the lively G minor sonata (track 4), the clarity of his finger work being admirable. Those who are just coming to the series should first go to volume 5 where Benjamin Frith gives an object lesson that all other pianists should study before attempting to play Baroque music on a modern piano. Nicolosi does have the good fortune of recording in the ideal piano location of England’s Potton Hall.

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