When I interviewed Angela Hewitt in 2007, she was already planning to add some Scarlatti recordings to her discography of the major Baroque composers. 'What's fascinating,' she told me, 'is that all these guys are writing at the same time, yet so differently: Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Couperin, Rameau.' Of course, the special attraction of Scarlatti's music is as she said, largely tied to 'the Spanish influence, which was very strong. The stomping of the feet, the strumming of the guitar—it's a whole different footwork!'
It's no surprise that Hewitt, whose Bach recordings in particular are renowned for their infectious dance rhythms, should focus on Scarlatti's 'footwork'. In her notes to this CD, for example, she refers to K29's 'flamenco spirit' and points out that K159 'is above all a tarantella', a dance popular in Naples, Scarlatti's birthplace. Yet Hewitt is also alert to the music's other facets; she brings out Scarlatti's imitations of castanets (K13), mandolin (K141), trumpet (K29) and an entire orchestra (K96)! And she's attuned to the sonata's shifting emotional hues, their iridescent play of light and shadow, from the humour of K427, where, she says, 'the fortissimo chords need to come as a huge surprise—like somebody jumping out at you from behind a door', to the grave beauty of K87 and K109's tinge of 'Moorish melancholy'.
Rejecting Kirkpatrick's idea that the sonatas be arranged in pairs, Hewitt organises them here in three sets of four, one set of three and her 'encore' piece, the decorous yet elegiac K380. Like a handful of other recent releases (by Queffélec, Tharaud, Sudbin) her vivacious disc brings Scarlatti's music gloriously alive.