Enrico Pieranunzi: Scarlatti Sonata K377 and Improv

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Scarlatti Sonata K377 and Improv

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CD

Enrico Pieranunzi Plays Domenico Scarlatti (CamJazz 5034)

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Musicians:

Enrico Pieranunzi (piano).

Composed by Domenico Scarlatti. Arranged by Enrico Pieranunzi

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Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany December 8-9, 2007

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Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

The idea of "jazzing up the classics" is an old one, dating back to the rag and stride pianists of the early 20th century. At one time there must have been quite a bit of shock value when a pianist played a hot version of Chopin or Tchaikovsky, but not any more. Today it comes across as just another gimmick—and a tired one at that.

For that reason, you might be forgiven for dismissing pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's interpretations of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) before even giving them a listen. But you would be making a mistake. Pieranunzi is not a gimmicky player, and his best work has a profound rightness about it, an uncontrived immersion into musical essences and an almost tactile yet elusive sensuality. He brings these qualities to bear on his reworkings of Scarlatti, which both respect the integrity of the original compositions while finding in them a platform for contemporary improvisation.

This is not an small feat. Pieranunzi works a subtle transformation, and if you are not listening carefully you will miss that many gradual shifts in texture and tone that shape his interpretations. An even series of on-the-beat left hand notes evolves into a walking bassline. Eighteenth century harmony is hammered into twentieth century harmony through a series of granular level adaptations. Syncopations emerge from the counterpoint. The end result is penetrating modern jazz, but Pieranunzi arrives there as slowly and patiently as a sunset working its effects over the horizon. Few CDs these days sound so untouched by the expected and conventional—the wonder is that our pianist makes this happen with a composition that is 250 years old.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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