Sunday, May 7, 2017

Canadian Pianist Luke Welch's CD "Crossing Borders: Domenico Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas" is an enjoyable introduction to a lesser-known composer

Crossing Borders: 
Domenico Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas (35:26)

Luke Welch, Piano

The Luke Welch CD Crossing Borders: Domenico Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas has a novelty factor for this reviewer.  Domenico Scarlatti lived from 1685-1757, so his era predates that of most Italian composers and most composers in general in our music collection.  We consulted Everyman's Dictionary of Music by Eric Blom, published in 1973 by Plume Books of The New American Library, and revised by Sir Jack Westrup, Professor of Music, University of Oxford.

The dictionary lists Scarlatti as "an Italian family of musicians" starting with 1., Alessandro Scarlatti, born May 2, 1660 and died October 24, 1725. Alessandro's first opera dates from 1679; its success is credited with winning him an appointment as maestro di cappella to Sweden's Queen Christina, the dictionary tells us.  Alessandro had a vast compositional output which included over 600 cantatas and 115 operas.

The fifth of six listed members of the Scarlatti family of musicians is (Giuseppe) Domenico Scarlatti, the son and student of Alessandro Scarlatti.  Born in Naples on October 26, 1685, he died in Madrid on July 23, 1757.  He is listed as a "harpsichordist and composer."  The dictionary tells us " 1701 he was appointed organist and composer to the court at Naples, where his operas L'Ottavia ristituita al trono and Il Giustino were produced in 1703."  We are told he met Gasparini in Venice "...and probably studied with him." 

The liner notes for Luke Welch's Crossing Borders say "Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) was an Italian musician, son of the famed composer Alessandro Scarlatti, who was primarily a keyboardist.  He composed 555 keyboard sonatas ranging in mood, style, and technical demand though most of his works were published posthumously.  These works, many of which were written as keyboard exercises, are single-movement pieces written in two-part form.  In addition to being concert pieces, they were intended to target the technical demands of keyboard instruments - including hand-crossing, articulation, lyrical playing, virtuosity, repeated notes, and more."

The biographical portion of the liner notes tells us: "Pianist Luke Welch was born and grew up in Mississauga, [Ontario] Canada.  His piano teachers include Krzysztof Jedrysik, Catherine Kuzeljevich, and John-Paul Bracey.  He completed his studies at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and Codarts Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, and his international concert engagements include performances in Canada, United States of America, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and New Zealand.  Crossing Borders was   recorded in Cologne, Germany at Loft Studios on November 11, 2016.  "This album is sponsored and supported by FACTOR/Government of Canada."

The eight works on the program are:

1. L. 430 (K. 531) in E Major

2. L. 349 (K. 146) in G Major

3. L. 118 (K. 466) in F Minor

4. L. 449 (K. 027) in B Minor

5. L. 418 (K. 443) in D Major

6. L. 147 (K. 197) in B Minor

7. L. 457 (K. 132) in C Major

8. L. 023 (K. 380) in E Major

The entire program is attractive to us, and has remained so through numerous hearings, but we find the first and last tracks of greatest interest.  The first piece seems the most jaunty and cheerful.  The last one seems strangely familiar and reminiscent of something indefinable.  Luke Welch performs at a high level of musicianship throughout the recording.  His website,, makes it easy to locate a source for the disc.  We confidently recommend the CD.                                                                                                                                                                                            

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