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HomeTheatreMahan Esfahani treats London to an immersive Scarlatti expertise – Seen and...

Mahan Esfahani treats London to an immersive Scarlatti expertise – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Scarlatti: Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord). Queen Elizabeth Corridor, London, 14.10.2022. (MB)

Mahan Esfahani

Scarlatti – Sonatas in F, Kk.296; in F, Kk.297; in F minor, Kk.466; in F sharp minor, Kk.25; in G minor, Kk.12; in C minor, Kk.11; in F, Kk.6; in F minor, Kk.19; in F, Kk.106; in F, Kk.107; in D minor, Kk.552; in D minor, Kk.553; in C minor, Kk.116; in G, Kk.470; in G, Kk.471; in E minor, Kk.263; in E, Kk.264; in A, Kk.24; in D minor, Kk.32

One of many first skilled live shows I heard — it might even have been the primary — was of Scarlatti sonatas on the harpsichord, on the suggestion of my childhood piano trainer, with whom I discovered few alongside the best way. I can not now bear in mind who the harpsichordist was and am not even positive of the venue; oddly, I believe it might have been Rotherham’s Civic Theatre slightly than the Arts Centre (a part of a beautiful brutalist complicated, since demolished, that included the city’s Central Library from the place I borrowed lots of my first books and, later, first musical cassettes and scores). Scarlatti loomed comparatively giant within the early repertoire I used to be often allowed to check out on my trainer’s spinet. As quickly, although, as I began organ classes in my teenagers, my adoration for Bach considerably crowded out contemporaries. Not that I’ve or had no real interest in Scarlatti, Handel, Rameau, Couperin, and plenty of others, however I’m moderately positive I’ve by no means been to an all-Scarlatti recital since. I do not know how I’d react immediately to what I heard as a schoolboy in Rotherham — I assume I’m not imagining the entire thing — however I can say that this immersive expertise from Mahan Esfahani, carried out with out an interval, a lot of it with out as a lot as a break between items, was fairly a journey on which to be taken.

Over ninety minutes or so, with a few bonus D minor sonatas as encores, Esfahani’s choice lined a broad vary, while nonetheless in fact solely encompassing a small proportion of Scarlatti’s output on this style. (One may moderately go as far as to name the Scarlatti sonata near a style in itself. It doesn’t spring out of nowhere, nor does it result in nowhere, however few if any binary kinds are fairly prefer it.) From the outset, we knew that this was music internalised, in order that these performances, with no trace of the wilful, may in a constructive sense be like no others. Freedom was not licence; slightly, it supplied a guiding thread that enabled a selected sequence of works to emerge in a selected manner, with contemporary performances that will have been in any other case in a distinct order, not to mention a distinct day. As an illustration, within the first pair of works, in F main, harmonic rhythm that was allied to, but by no means dictated by, metre was the body for a relish within the composer’s obstinacy and graciousness alike: aristocratic in the most effective sense. Because the recital progressed, repeated figures, sequences scales, ornaments and different constructing blocks emerged as attribute, but various, nothing so mundane as a cliché. The phantasm of dynamic distinction was conjured — besides, in fact, that it was not at all times an phantasm.

An interesting sequence of minor-key works communicated a correct sense of Affekt, fairly distinct from later tonal understandings, associative or in any other case. The place I as an adolescent had been tempted to the maudlin, right here this music was delivered to life, with none of the irritating, nonsensical reductionism of many so-called ‘Baroque’ musicians who would declare all music of the interval is a dance. This can be a world with as many choices as ours, and so too it sounded right here, while making the sum of these choices greater than the sum of its components. Continuities and discontinuities, and the best way they match collectively, supplied right here and elsewhere courtly dignity and attract, and a superb sense of caprice. Crossing of palms, leaning appoggiaturas, agogic accents, fanfares that spoke of a world past the keyboard, and magical moments of suspense expertly punctured led in the direction of a last sequence of sonatas that in-built gravity and abandon, tempting us to assume each the final, till a successor twisted the screw slightly additional. One thing darker, mysteriously Mediterranean characterised the ultimate programmed work, the right response to its predecessor’s abandon. Programming and efficiency labored as one.

Mark Berry

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