With her many excellent discs of Bach and other Baroque composers to her credit, it is unsurprising that Angel Hewitt should dip into one of the great treasures troves of keyboard music from that period and present a recital of Sonatas by Scarlatti. The result is a magnificent and constantly engaging journey, drawing upon her wide experience of the different Baroque styles and genres which inform Scarlatti’s endlessly inventive gems.
Each Sonata evokes a discrete atmosphere, brought about by the way in which Hewitt transcends the notes on the page to articulate its inner character and structure. Often this is achieved through her stylishly crisp manner, familiar from her Bach performances, using subtle inflections of tempo and dynamic to create structure in simpler textures, or clear voice-leading in denser four-part writing in such works as the Sonatas in B minor and G minor, Kk87 and 8Kk. This is far from a default setting, however, as she is equally alert to the lively Mediterranean temperament of other pieces, for example the repeated notes thrown off the keyboard in imitation of castanets in Kk13 or a mandolin in Kk141. She sees beyond the opening fanfares of Kk159 to interpret it as, instead, a (Neapolitan) tarantella. By contrast she likens the melancholic A minor Sonata Kk109 to Portuguese fado music. Looking further afield there is a Hadynesque, or even Beethovenian, wit in the repetitions of the little falling two-note cell punctuating the phrases in Kk430—now gruff, now teasing—as well as in the sudden fortissimo chords erupting from the high spirits of Kk427.
By assembling Sonatas into groups of three or four at a time Hewitt effects variety and contrast, but ensures through the constancy of her poised playing generally that such diversity does not become enervating or bewildering. The dignified restraint exercised in the courtly gestures and fanfares of the well-known E major Sonata KK380 as a coda to this disc whets the appetite for more.
Her CD notes are as intelligent and insightful as her playing, drawing upon the opinions and practices of others who have analysed or played this music in the past. She comes to her own conclusions about each piece, demonstrating a lifetime of sensitive reflection and performance of this music, and that personality shines through in every track. She indicates her desire to make further recordings of Scarlatti—let us hope that we do not have to wait long.