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Gramophone, June 2018

’Gerda Struhal obtains more lilt and animation through her occasional staccato articulation of the bass line‘. © 2018 Gramophone

Christopher Brodersen
Fanfare, May 2011

SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 12 (Struhal) 8.570745
SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 13 (Chu-Fang Huang) 8.572107

This is the first chance I’ve had to sample any of the titles in the ongoing Naxos Scarlatti series. When I first heard about it, the marketing strategy (if that’s what it is) of using a different pianist for each volume puzzled me. But now I see the logic: The project not only gives exposure to many young pianists who might not otherwise get a chance to record, it highlights and underscores the diversity and accessibility of Scarlatti’s music. Scarlatti’s sonatas are so varied yet so uniformly excellent that, assuming that each pianist is reasonably competent, the CDs should be worth acquiring, at least at Naxos’s bargain prices.

Gerda Struhal is Viennese; she studied both in Utrecht and Vienna and currently concertizes throughout Europe and the Far East. She is also a conductor. Her playing is relaxed and somewhat internalized—it’s what I would call the Old World approach to Scarlatti. The sound of her piano (Bösendorfer?) is warm and lovely, and has been faithfully captured by the engineers. The recital contains a representative mix of both early and late sonatas.

Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang studied at both Curtis and Juilliard and won first prize at the 2006 Young Concert Artists competition. She concertizes in North America, China, Japan and Australia. Her playing has more of a brilliant edge to it compared with Struhal’s, although it never strays outside the boundaries of 18th-century decorum. This is certainly reinforced by the use of a large Steinway. The recording was made in the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto; the sound is a bit more distant than that of Struhal’s but still quite satisfactory. The program is once again a mix of early and late sonatas.

You can’t go wrong with either one of these Naxos CDs, especially at the bargain-basement price…

Jed Distler, December 2010

Gerda Struhal’s clean fingerwork and ornamentation, strongly projected yet never exaggerated bass lines, and her solid rhythmic sense and good taste bode well for Scarlatti. Among this release’s high points include a lyrically shaped and crisply delineated F major K. 151, the subtle use of dynamics for harmonic coloring in the C major K. 309, and the F minor K. 186’s musically purposeful distinctions between legato and detached articulation. To be sure, Struhal may not match more forceful and inspirational personalities in certain works. Compare, for example, Maria Tipo’s hushed tonal magic in the G major K. 425 alongside Struhal’s relatively matter-of-fact reading, and you’ll understand what I mean. At the same time, Struhal will split the difference between interpretive extremes like Tipo’s gentle, dulcet E major K. 381 and Christian Zacharias’ far brusquer, aggressive antipode. A fine addition to Naxos’ ongoing Scarlatti cycle.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, December 2010

I have previously reviewed the first eight volumes in this Naxos series here, and then unaccountably went AWOL on Nos. 9, 10 and 11. This one by Viennese pianist Gerda Struhal is among the best I’ve heard in this or any series. Her dynamics are always well judged, her tempos somewhat on the brisk side—which in Scarlatti is a good thing—her articulation generally clear, her technique clean and her interpretations well conceived. She plays the leadoff work here, the perky Sonata in E flat, K. 193, with such spirit and joy that you know instantly you’re listening to a subtle musician, fully sensitive to the brighter side of Scarlatti. The Sonata in F minor, K. 185 (track 9), divulges the darker side of the composer, and here Struhal is just as effective, catching the loneliness and sense of desolation in this touching work. Elsewhere, she delivers the Sonata in G minor K. 93 (track 14), a four-part fugue and the earliest work here, with a deft sense for the music’s mixture of glory and agitation, its spirit of drive and determination. Perhaps the Sonata in G minor, K. 426 (track 13), is the only work here that is not a complete success: Struhal is atmospherically effective, alright, but seems to overplay the work’s start-and-stop character, its elongated rests and Andante marking, imparting a slightly laborious character to the music’s flow. Still, the performance may well convey much of the feeling and mood Scarlatti wanted.

Like other discs in this series, this one presents the sonatas in no particular order and offers a mixture of the popular and little known. To Scarlatti admirers and, for that matter, lovers of Baroque keyboard music, this CD is most desirable. The sound reproduction is excellent and Keith Anderson’s notes are, as usual, highly enlightening. Recommended.

Lawson Taitte
The Dallas Morning News, October 2010

Viennese pianist Gerda Struhal, virtually unknown in the United States, might change your attitude about Domenico Scarlatti. Especially on the piano, as opposed to harpsichord, most players have emphasized their brilliance and local Spanish color. It’s easy to write off the music as fun, but not very nourishing.

Struhal finds both lyricism and substance in the 19 sonatas on this disc. The composer’s standard quirks make each piece instantly recognizable as his. Yet you find yourself making comparisons to Mozart or Schubert—representatives of a much later generation. Listen to the beautiful G major Sonata, K. 547, and notice how rich it seems. Or take note of the clanging dissonances in the G minor, K. 93—pungent and almost dangerous-sounding. These are the only available piano performances of some of these works, but even the familiar ones sound new.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2010

We may have reached the twelfth volume in this Naxos saga, but there are still more than three hundred of Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas yet to record. Austrian pianist Gerda Struhal presents the nineteen sonatas conceived purely in piano terms and without that misguided attempt to imitate the harpsichord. There is nothing rigid in her rhythm or tempo, each piece moulded as Struhal would like us to hear it, though some of the breaks in the music I feel are too pronounced and predictable. You feel we are sometimes we are on the way to Chopin, as the acerbic qualities of period instruments are smoothed out and become warm legato passages. That she has affection for the music is never in doubt; her articulation is neat and unfussy; mercurial passages ripple, while trills are kept just as tight as we expect on a harpsichord. The works are not played in chronological order, but have been chosen to make a nicely balanced programme both in mood and duration. Certainly on her own terms, Struhal offers a very pleasurable disc. Made at Potton Hall in the UK it offers a very realistic sound.

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