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Jed Distler, September 2008

Scarlatti's keyboard demands allow not an inch for uneven phrasing, imbalanced textures, or vagaries; as such his music ideally suits Colleen Lee's well-groomed pianism. Just listen to her impeccably aligned trills and repeated notes…she never makes an ugly sound, and her piano is beautifully recorded. Keith Anderson's splendid annotations provide welcome historical context for each work.

C. Michael Bailey
Kultur, August 2008

Lee brings to the keyboard a commanding approach that approximates Vladimir Horowitz in his Scarlatti. But this is no mere comparison. Lee brings the same inventive reverence and sense of wonder to the pieces. Perhaps a more accurate simile would be that Lee performs Scarlatti as one would expect Johann Sebastian Bach to, had he done so.

Lee begins her recital with with the D Major Sonata, K. 29, a Horowitz standard. Where Horowitz established a foundation for the piece, building a cathedral with it, Lee applies Newtonian Mechanics to the music, giving the sonata a spirited momentum, one where the notes cascade just enough in control to make it a perfect high-wire performance. The Bach angle comes into play with the K. 29's sister sonata in D Minor, K. 19. Here Lee performs the piece like one of Bach's inventions. Both the K. 29 and K. 19 sonatas are marked presto, and presto they are. Such profound playing infects the other D Major sonatas: K. 23 (allegro), K. 45 (presto), and K. 53 (allegro).

Another coupling of major and minor key sonatas is the aforementioned D Major, K. 23, an ebullient and slightly governed deluge of notes, and the introspective and contrapuntal D Minor, K. 41(almost adagio). Lee splendidly compares and contrasts these two vastly different sonatas, while demonstrating their common ground. The D Major, K. 45 possesses wisps of the Horowitz left hand, quietly laying the foundation over which Lee's right hand reigns. Lee approaches the rhythmically complex E Minor Sonata, K. 81 in such a way to clearly delineate its Grave – Allegro – Grave – Allegro four-movement structure.

This is the installment of The Complete Keyboard Sonatas to beat. Coleen Lee sets the bar high, very high, indeed. While none of the volumes in this set are less than excellent, Lee's Scarlatti recital is a first among equals.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

Some pianists in this series - which is devoted to performances on the piano - have played everything staccato and have kept feet away from the pedals in an effort to imitate the sound of a harpsichord. The young Hong Kong pianist, Colleen Lee, has the integrity to play as if they were intended for a concert grand, her credentials as a finalist in the 2005 Frederick Chopin Piano Competition shown in the agility and clean-cut quality of her playing. Regular readers will know of my complete aversion to Scarlatti played on a modern piano, however well intended the soloist is, the result alien to the sound the composer intended. Rather like using a modern theatre organ to play Bach. Had the recording engineer dried out the sound for Lee, this would be about as good as you can get on a piano. She has been given a programme that contains a nice mixture of the short one-movement sonatas which Scarlatti would have used as basic teaching exercises, to the E minor (K81) and D minor (K90) sonatas cast in four movements and somewhat more demanding. If you want to sample Lee try track 3 (K23) where she shows a nice originality in the way she uses the repeated note to good effect. I also enjoyed the understated gravity of the D minor sonata (K41) which works well on the piano and may have been intended for use on the organ, while the tightness of her trills is estimable. So if you ignore my prejudice, you will enjoy some very pleasing playing from Lee.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, August 2008

Contracting different artists to complete this huge project is a wise move: collectors thus have a variety of styles and sounds (some even play harpsichords, for which this music was intended!) Colleen Lee is a powerful player. It reminds me of a comment a critic made to me once, when we issued a recording of sonatinas—lightweight stuff to be sure—performed by a great European concert pianist (Marie-Aimee Varro): This is like putting a Cadillac engine in a Morris Minor.

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