This time I'm inspired to look at different performances of a Scarlatti sonata simply because I'm learning it. This has pretty much been my standard modus operandi ever since I have been a performer. I'm curious to see what others have done with the piece. Sometimes I avoid hearing other versions until I have made some headway myself and then I am often surprised at what seems to be the standard interpretation.
Interpretations within a community of players can take on a life of their own. Everyone is copying aspects of the way everyone else plays the piece. I became aware of this after a concert once when a friend of mine, a composer, pointed out to me that I was completely ignoring some glissandi in the score. This was in the Prelude No. 4 by Villa-Lobos, a score he had studied when he was writing music for guitar. Of course he was correct! I, and pretty much everyone else, was simply ignoring some clearly indicated glissandi in the melodic line.
I first heard the sonata, K. 213 by Domenico Scarlatti in a wonderful vinyl recording by John Williams dating, I believe, from the mid-70s. One side was the Five Preludes by Villa-Lobos and the other was five sonatas by Scarlatti. Guitarists have been raiding the Scarlatti sonatas for a long time, starting with Segovia. Many of them are very effective on guitar as they often have a Spanish flavor and the textures are frequently spare enough to be able to be transcribed to guitar without much change. Here is a link to the score for keyboard. One of the most respected harpsichordists and the first one to record all 555 sonatas by Scarlatti was Scott Ross (who sadly, died young at age 38). They were recorded over an eighteen month period in 1984/85. Here is a selection. K. 213 starts exactly at the 9:00 mark:
Here is Dmitri Levkovich, a young Ukrainian pianist now living in Canada in a recent competition performance:
Another performance by the Dutch harpsichordist Gerard van Reenen:
Now for some guitar versions. Here is André Madeira:
Angelito Agcaoili in a concert performance:
And finally, John Williams:
The version on piano by Levkovich is quite fine, but perhaps over-sensitive. Scarlatti should always have a bit of a gritty feel in my opinion, something the harpsichord provides naturally. So can the guitar, which is why they often work well on guitar. What about the three guitar performances? They all work, but they all seem to be making the same mistake: constantly fiddling with the tempo. Yes, even John Williams, whose second phrase is quite substantially rushed. His version is the best on guitar, of course, and most of it is excellent. But the wandering tempo of the beginning puts me off. Why is it that all the guitarists have trouble controlling the tempo and none of the keyboardists do?