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Did Scarlatti ever write a dull sonata? Every one of his 550 examples are composed in simple bi-part form, yet there the simplicity ends. As Federico Colli tells us in his accompanying note to the launch CD in his Chandos signing, Scarlatti was an endlessly complex and audacious composer. Masking the setbacks in his career (first in Italy, then Portugal and Spain), his exuberance could switch abruptly to introspection, from geniality to darker imaginings. Colli, with characteristic idiosyncracy, divides his recital into four sections: The Power of Illusion; Live Happily; The Return to Order; and Enchantment and Prayer. The pianist is brilliantly alive to Scarlatti’s infinite variety, mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar. His is an enthralling journey with a determination to open our minds and ears to all Scarlatti has to offer.

Colli’s pinpoint brilliance is complemented by an inwardness that makes his curtain-raiser, KK19 in F minor, a particularly haunting experience. While his playing acknowledges the harpsichord’s glitter, he revels in the opportunities for colour and the most wide-ranging expression provided by a modern instrument. There may be moments when his verve and affection could be achieved by simpler, less heavily personalised means; yet his zest and commitment are hard to resist (try KK234 in G minor and KK396 in D minor).

Colli’s recent London performance of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No 3 suggested a maverick genius. If you possess his Scarlatti disc together with Horowitz’s and more recently Sudbin’s, you will have riches indeed. Chandos’ sound is immaculate and the 10 photographs of Colli show him flamboyantly hatted and shirted.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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