I reviewed Jean Rondeau’s CD of Bach family concerti last year, and found it to be a bit of a mixed bag due to some seemingly intentionally peculiar phrasing. It mostly worked, but at times seemed deliberately bizarre.

On this new release, he’s playing Scarlatti. Once again, there’s odd things happening here, and I’m not terribly sure who at Erato is letting Rondeau do these. There’s an interlude at track nine (complete with recommendation to pause the disc at that point) which seems to be an atonal improvisation. Granted, it’s only 30 seconds and I like the idea of something to break up the stream of Scarlatti, but this comes across as more eyebrow-raising than thought-provoking. Likewise, the liner notes take the form of a detailed letter from Scarlatti, but the only indication that it’s a work of fiction is a tiny disclaimer several pages away. Neither of these are massive issues, but they’re certainly unusual.

These gimmicks aside, Rondeau plays Scarlatti very well, and certainly much more naturally than his Bach. This music lends itself far more to twists of phrasing or flights of musical fancy, and Rondeau certainly takes advantage of it; his leaning appoggiaturas make the slower sonatas (like the Sonata in D Minor, K213 or the Sonata in E, K162) truly gorgeous. He’s got quite an impressive burst of speed on the flashy Sonata in D Minor, K141, too. Well-played Scarlatti, though with some unnecessary extra-musical additions.

Composer: Scarlatti
Composition: Sonatas
Performer: Jean Rondeau hpscd
Catalogue Number: Erato 0190295633684

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