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The ongoing Naxos series of the complete keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1685 -- 1757) performed on the piano offers the opportunity to hear these extraordinary jewel-like works in breadth. The series also offers the opportunity to hear a variety of talented artists who show different ways of interpreting Scarlatti at the piano. To date, my favorite release in the series has been that of Soyeon LeeScarlatti: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 8. Lee recently won first prize in the 2010 prestigious Naumberg competition.

The most recent release in the Scarlatti series, volume 12, features the Viennese pianist Gerda Struhal. Struhal was a student of Alan Weiss and Hans Petermandl. She teaches at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna and has enjoyed an international career as a soloist. This apparently is her first CD. The CD was recorded in 2007 in Suffolk, United Kingdom, and the sound is clear and full.

Struhal plays these sonatas pianistically and makes full use of the dynamic range of the instrument. Pianists should not try to imitate the harpsichord in playing Scarlatti. Sturhal's touch tends to be light and tempos quick. The voicing is clear and the use of the pedal is minimal. Thus, while her performance definitely used the qualities of the piano, it was idiomatic to the music and did not attempt to romanticize the composer.

The CD includes 19 sonatas ranging from the early sonata in g minor, K. 93, an unusual four-part fugue, to the sonata in G major, K. 547, a fast-paced work and one of the last of the series of the 555-some sonatas. Of the 19 works included, 5 are in the minor key. The works are not presented in chronological order on the CD.

Some of the works on the CD appear to be "paired" compositions which Scarlatti may have intended to be performed together. These include the sonata in G major, K. 425, which is a short rapidly moving work which changes key midcourse and the sonata in g minor, K. 426, a longer, slower piece with punctuated by dramatic pauses which also changes key before the second section. The brief liner notes to the CD written by Keith Anderson indicate that the sonatas in f minor, K. 185 and K. 186, performed here, may be part of a series of five works in f minor, K 183 -- 187 which Scarlatti may have intended as a suite.

Most of these works were new to me, with the exception of the C major sonata, K. 309 and the g minor sonata K.426, which I know from Ralph Kirkpatrick's edition of 60 famous Scarlatti sonatas. The works feature the insistent dancelike rhythms, patterns of pulsing repeated notes, long runs and arpeggios, Spanish themes, and quirky harmonies that give Scarlatti a distinctive voice. Most of the pieces in this collection are bright. They brought cheer to me when I heard them in the middle of a few days of wretchedness.

Although this is the 12th CD of the Naxos series, much more Scarlatti is yet to come as at least 300 of the sonatas remain to be performed. There frequently have been lengthy gaps between the releases of CDs in the series, so that each one is something of a surprise and an event to be anticipated. I enjoyed hearing Gerda Struhal in this excellent CD, and I am looking forward to hearing more of Scarlatti in ths ambitious Naxos series.

Total time: 67:24

Robin Friedman
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The Naxos label made the unusual decision to issue all of the Scarlatti keyboard sonatas (Essercizi per Gravicembalo, as he called them) with a different pianist on each succeeding CD. The level of playing (and recorded sound) has been extremely high. This series simply keeps going from strength to strength. And this one, featuring Viennese pianist Gerda Struhal, is one of the very best. Struhal has a lovely tone, a fluid touch and command of a wide range of dynamics which she uses expertly and musically. She is given a lovely piano on which to play, too. Its mellow bass register is particularly delicious. Her nuanced playing is really a joy to encounter. Like others in the series the disc features both familiar and unfamiliar sonatas -- not surprising considering there are 555 of them and even if one is fairly acquainted with many of them there are necessarily some that are new discoveries. For instance, I had never to my knowledge heard the Sonata in F Minor, K. 387/L. 175/P.415, which features striking opening phrases ending with left hand octaves. Struhal plays it sassily and I found myself going back to it again and again. I was also charmed by her playing of the familiar 6/8 jeu, Sonata in A Major, K. 323/L. 95/P. 411, a veritable moto perpetuo.

I had never heard of Ms Struhal but will be looking for any future recordings she makes.

Scott Morrison
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on December 18, 2011
Ms. Struhal's performance ranks with the best, including Horowitz, Pletnev and the other pianists on Naxos. Her phrasing and nuance enhance all of the sonatas she has chosen for this recording. This is a worthy addition to the Scarlatti collection.
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on April 13, 2015
Good quality CD! Super performance! Thanks!
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