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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

John McCabe Plays Dominico Scarlatti, Muzio Clementi Keyboard Sonatas

There are times when life does not appear ideal but then there is a release that takes you to the happier land of music. Today there is some joy for me in such a one, John McCabe (1939-2015) playing the Keyboard Sonatas (Divine Art 21231 2-CDs) of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) and Muzio Clementi (1752-1832).

The pairing of composers and performer is not entirely predictable yet when you listen you feel that this coupling was meant to be. Two composers who added between the two of them much to our keyboard sonata riches and a pianist (composer, conductor) who graced our current world so abundantly and artistically, the experience has magic and there is wonderful piano music to hear indeed.

I cut my eye-teeth on Scarlatti via Fernando Valenti's copious set as played on harpsichord (Westminster), so that hearing these twelve Sonatas by a pianist who brings a firmly idiomatic and poetic, singing approach to them is a pleasant shock of recognition, as old friends become somehow very new. As played on piano by McCabe they sound so...almost Modern and...ethnic if you will pardon the phrase, since everything is ethnic in a way?! The playfully dancing Spanish-Italian flavor of the music comes across so vibrantly here that one can only give thanks to hear them!

And as to the Muzio Clementi the three sonatas op. 50 no. 3, op. 33 no 2, op. 40 no 3 plus the "Monferrine" come at us with very pleasing delivery, on time, a beautiful time indeed. The performances are focused and passionate in a rare blend of performative combustion.

The music was recorded in 1981 around the time of the author's 42nd birthday and were meant for release on the then brand new classical label Hyperion. They come out here on Divine Art in full fidelity and with a marvelously spontaneous flourish on the part of McCabe.

The whole set is a stunner and well worth having. McCabe with his fingers sings, we mentally and musically dance along and we are all the better for it. Strongly recommended for the repertoire and performances! Bra-vo!

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