Angela Hewitt here laces together 17 of Scarlatti's jewel-like sonatas, playing them with the grace and finesse that recalls Gabriele D'Annunzio's description of them as 'a soft hail of pearls that rush, gleam, resonate, bounce'. Each of these gems conjures up its own distinctive world, and Hewitt paints an entire gallery of scenes and portraits with a palette of vibrant colours and effects. There are evocations of festive processions, fairs and dances in Scarlatti's adopted Spain, complete with flamenco guitars and percussive castanets; and there are recollections of Italy in his laments and toccatas, capriccios, and lilting pastorales imitating Italian shepherd bagpipes.
Thanks to her long immersion in Bach, Hewitt plays with cut-glass clarity: witness her lucid account of the fugal C minor Sonata, Kk58, one of Scarlatti's more Bachian works. Her gossamer touch makes Scarlatti's rapid passagework and figurations sound light as summer rain, while his fiddly embellishments sparkle and shimmer—no mean feat on a concert grand piano. Hewitt's instrument of choice is a Fazioli, its sound clean and alert, even in the rather open acoustic of Hanover's Beethovensaal.
My main cavils are with her use of rubato and Romantically-inspired expressive devices, more appropriate for Chopin than Scarlatti: tempos can lurch unsettlingly, and her dynamic nuances and exquisitely tapered lines can feel a shade too self-conscious. Otherwise, she's on fine form.