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Robert Cummings
Classical Net, August 2011

In volume 14 of this Naxos series you certainly get your money’s worth: over seventy minutes of fine Scarlatti, in interpretations brimming with spirit and imagination, fully sensitive to the composer’s often peculiar but always compelling style.

Duanduan Hao, born in 1990 in China, is one of many talented pianists from that country.On the evidence here Hao may well have a major career on the concert stage ahead of him.

…Hao turns in a stunning performance…The sound is vivid and Keith Anderson’s notes are informative. As suggested at the outset, the listener can hardly go wrong in acquiring this excellent offering.

Jed Distler, July 2011

The 14th volume of Naxos’ ongoing Scarlatti sonata cycle showcases Duanduan Hao, a pianist born in 1990 who won first prize in the 2009 Shanghai International Piano Competition. Hao’s crisp, well-poised finger-work, centered sonority, and superb articulation are ideal for Scarlatti. For instance, the pianist characterfully varies the G major K. 337 sonata’s repeated phrases, and perfectly matches the B-flat K. 229, D minor K. 295, and D major K. 282 sonatas’ ornaments and imitative writing from hand to hand. In the D minor K. 295, Hao generates welcome harmonic tension by ever-so-slightly elongating bass notes at the beginning of certain arpeggiated figurations while bringing a relaxed lilt and suave tonal gradations to the C major K. 242.

Sometimes Hao’s youth gives him away, particularly in his tendency to insert little breath marks between sections and in the way his squarest phrasing bogs the music down. A telltale example of this can be found in the E major K. 162, where Hao lays heavily upon each downbeat to predictable effect at the beginning, and wrongly speeds up when the note values quicken…All told, Hao’s best playing signifies a strong talent with lots of potential, and I wager that his musicianship will ripen over time. We shall see!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2011

There are many different approaches if you feel compelled to play Domenico Scarlatti on a modern piano, Duanduan Hao looking to create a modern harpsichord. Winner of the 2009 Shanghai International Piano Competition, the twenty-year-old Chinese-born pianist keeps everything dry and staccato with minimum use of pedals. The only drawback to that approach is a lack of the powerful left-hand that was a feature of playing the finest harpsichords of Scarlatti’s time. The on-going series of discs—we have now reached volume 14—does not present the monumental series of sonatas in chronological order, the present release containing only one of the more extended scores—the one in A minor that formed part of the third volume published in Venice in 1753. There are seventeen tracks, and throughout the disc I very much enjoy the nimble decorative quality of Hao’s right hand. He does not inject the dramatic quality many harpsichordists bring to the scores, and likewise does not find the happiness that the period specialists bring to their performances. In both matters he may well reflect the composer’s wishes. When the music does give him some measure of technical brilliance, as in the E major sonata from the first Venice volume, Hao supplies it with panache. Recorded in the UK, the sound quality is excellent, and those collecting the series will welcome the disc.

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