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A Surge Of Scarlatti Sonatas

Each of Domenico Scarlatti's 555 keyboard sonatas has its own personality.
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Each of Domenico Scarlatti's 555 keyboard sonatas has its own personality.

Three centuries ago a man named Domenico Scarlatti churned out an enormous number of keyboard sonatas — more than 550. Pianists, harpsichordists and even accordionists still can't get enough these inventive, bite-sized pieces.

A clutch of Scarlatti albums have appeared this year and more are on the way. Albums from pianists Orion Weiss and Igor Kamez are due in the coming weeks. Here we offer a sampling of five recent releases.

Why all the Scarlatti? Pianist David Greilsammer sees vast possibilities in the music. The Scarlatti sonatas, Greilsammer says in notes to his new album, comprise "a miraculous space designed for conception and experimentation." The composer had his formulas, but each sonata has its own colorful personality that presents itself differently in the hands of various musicians.

Beside the obvious elegance of Scarlatti's melodies, listen for sounds of flamenco guitars and castanets (Scarlatti spent the last 28 years of his life in Spain), trumpet fanfares and orchestral effects. In his time, only a fraction of his sonatas were known. We're lucky so many of them survived and continue to delight.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.