Whether Federico Colli is destined to record all 555 Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti for Chandos is unclear, but “Vol. 1” is encouraging of more to come. This is amazing music, so imaginative, so emotionally varied, and Colli does his chosen sixteen examples proud. Make what you will of him grouping this selection into four Chapters, of four Sonatas each, and finding a complementary title, such as “Live happily!” (a Presto and three Allegros) and “Enchantment and Prayer”. Of course, one can just listen straight through, sixty-seven minutes well-spent, and enjoy Scarlatti’s rich, wide-ranging and surprising invention.
These may be Sonatas for harpsichord but they respond so well to a modern piano and, without affectation or contrivance, Colli takes full advantage of a Steinway Model D for optimum use of colour, dynamics, touch and articulation. Fast works are crisp and brilliant, slower ones sensitive and affecting – these latter qualities evident from the off with Kk19 (Ralph Kirkpatrick’s catalogue), F-minor, poignant music offset by the marching, tunefully-haunting Kk380, E-major, which Colli moves along while being mindful of the expressive touches that flexibility of tempo can bring.
Colli really makes this music speak and resonate, and the remaining Sonatas here – from the sad song that is Kk9 to the closing, serene Kk32 (also D-minor, “Aria” given as the tempo indication) via the brilliant prestidigitation needed for the A-major Kk39 Sonata – are all gems; in the latter piece Colli scintillates, and throughout he digs deep into the musical potential created by this genius composer: 1685-1757 might be his dates, but his music is timeless. First-class sound and annotation, including a “Note by the performer”.