Handel/Scarlatti: Murray Perahia Plays Handel & Scarlatti
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Customer Reviews:

  • Sublime Pianism
    Putting Perahia's magnificent achievement into words is difficult indeed. This is the kind of playing that silences criticism. This - and Perahia's other Bach CDs - simply define how Baroque keyboard music should be played (yes, even considering Gould). The only thing to be done is to buy this record - you will find yourself returning to it again and again with great satisfaction....more info
  • Amazing skill
    If you love baroque keyboard music, this CD is a must have. Pariah's technical skill is impeccable and his interpretations bring a new insight into the timeless beauty of these pieces. What a talent. Amazing!...more info
  • Why canyt all piano records be as good as this?
    "Why can't all piano records be as good as this?", Gramophone's reviewer asks himself as he sets out to describe the many treasures, hidden and otherwise, of this remarkable achievement. Why, indeed. Which, of course, calls forth the question: shouldn't this repertoire be performed on that most individual and idiosyncratic of instruments, the harpsichord, for which it was originally conceived?
    I am a convinced authenticist--I can no longer bring myself to listen to Baroque (or earlier) music that is not performed on period instruments: somehow it just doesn't sound right. And yet I am a great admirer of Perahia's accomplishments: it is not everyday that one finds such faultless technique, such command of shades and nuances, such surprising insights, such reserved, yet overwhelming lyricism, such versatility of touch--so apparent, for instance, in his masterly presentation of Chopin's Piano Works (1994, strongly recommended). So it was with mixed feelings, and equipped with the necessary dose of scepticism, that I first played this CD.
    Well, it is unique. Everything one has learned to expect from Perahia is here; and, if possible, even more. He does not pretend that this is piano music; but by means of sheer artistry he succeeds in making wonderful piano music out of it. This is not to say that the more distinctive features of harpsichord music are lost on him: he is brilliant, crisp, and fast enough when needed. Simply, instead of merely mimicking the sound and feel of the harpsichord (a risky and usually unrewarding venture), he tries to make sense of these scores from a pianist's point of view. It seems to me that this approach reveals more than it conceals: for instance, the Harmonious Blacksmith Variations (Suite N. 5 in E Major, HWV 430) quite unexpectedly acquire a softly hypnotic ring which I found very appealing. The virtuosity is astounding, so second-nature that it almost fails to impress. The sound is excellent. (Two or three of the Scarlatti tracks were perhaps recorded at a slightly lower volume than the rest--but I might be wrong.)
    Handel (1685-1759) and Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) were contemporaries. Before heading off for what would become their adoptive countries (England and Portugal, respectively), the two player-composers even met twice, the first time in Venice, and then in Rome, where a trial of skill was held (Scarlatti turned out to be perhaps the better harpsichordist, while Handel excelled at the organ). The Handel pieces were all composed in Germany or in Italy, and are therefore early, pre-England works (before 1718), while the pieces by Scarlatti date from the 1730s, his Portuguese period. The tracks were recorded in 1996 in Vienna and Neumarkt, Germany. The booklet is mildly enlightening....more info
  • Astonishing lyricism
    Perahia is a wonderful pianist, but this album seems to me his most wonderul (so far). The music is as compelling as the far better known keyboard works by Bach, so listeners who do not know these pieces will be delighted by them. No pianist or harpsicordist known to me has ever recorded the Handel suites with the moving lyricism that Perahia brings to this performance. For many months, this CD was one of seven I placed in my car's disc changer. As often as I listened to it, I never grew tired of this record's enchanting and exalted performances. Bravo!...more info
  • Does the Baroque repertoire suit Perahia?
    I was driven to buy this cd not only because of Perahia's marvellous interpretation of Mozart (the concertos) and Schubert (the vision of Schubert's 19 th sonata offered by Perahia is still unsurpassed in the entire discography) but also because of the unanimous acclaim the critics reserved to it.

    Perahia's reading is, once again, strongly articulated and profoundly intense as far as Handel music is concerned. The selected suites are played here with the appropriate tone and one is delighted to discover those pieces. But, I still have mixed feelings when when it comes to Scarlati. The overall set is well played with uncommon pianism but does not procure a real sense of authenticity in relation with baroque repertoire. The sonatas on the record fail to meet the delicacy of expression, the joyful elegance, this kind of contained energy that one finds, for example, in Horowitz'interpretation.

    In conclusion, this is a valuable performance which won't leave any regrets. However, in my view, Horowitz, Schiff and above all Pogorelich have set the standards very high as far as Scarlatti's sonatas are concerned and Perahia falls short of meeting them....more info
  • Supreme music making
    Perahia's artistry lifts the Handel suites to breathtaking levels of expressiveness. The pity is that it's not an all Handel CD; it could be a generation or two before anyone may play Handel like this again. ...more info
  • The Master Pianist
    Over the years I have compiled a list of pianists I want to be sure to hear in concert before I die. At the top of the list of remaining pianists yet unheard is Murray Perahia. He is, for me, possibly the most talented, most musical, most elegant pianist before the public. What, I asked myself, do I have to add to the sixteen reviews of this disc thus far submitted? Well, probably nothing startling. But I felt I needed to add my praise and a few comments about this essential disc.

    The first, I suppose, is that I feel this disc IS essential. For anyone interested in baroque keyboard music this release (along with the other Bach and Handel discs Perahia has made) shows us how a modern pianist, using modern techniques and performance practices, has much to say about this so-familiar music. Of course, Perahia has a perfected technique. His left hand is possibly the best I've ever heard. Just listen to the incredibly fast runs, inflected on the fly, in some of the fast movements presented here (as in the presto variation of the 'Harmonious Blacksmith,' for instance). Nobody else has as fluid a legato or rounded tone as Perahia. His feather-light staccatos at breakneck speed are breathtaking. In the G minor Chaconne of Handel the left hand octaves ring out like a 16-foot organ pedal stop. And on and on. All of this is the service of elegance, grace and rich yet crystalline sonority. When drama is called for, it's there.

    The extensive, admiring booklet notes, written by the late, great harpsichordist (and no mean pianist himself) Igor Kipnis, capture what is unique about Perahia.

    This disc belongs on every musiclover's shelf.

    Scott Morrison...more info
  • Sheer Pleasure
    Whether you are into the intricacies of piano playing or just need the perfect way to relax after a long day, this music and Perahia's incomparable playing are good for the soul....more info
  • Think 19th & 20th Century Performance Practice!
    I went to music school in the late seventies to the mid-eighties during the height of the authentic interpretation movement. I believe that our musical culture is much better because of the experiments and study of this movement. I participated in an early music ensemble while attending music school and we performed a lot of interesting music always thinking about how it might have been done when it was first written.

    However, I was also trained on the piano by a man whose teacher was a pupil of Liszt. I kept asking folks that if we wanted authentic performance practice the question should be whose performance practice. Isn't there a late nineteenth century performance practice? Of course, nowadays the early music people are indeed looking anew at the Romantic performance practices. And we are the better for it.

    Here we have Handel and Scarlatti on the piano. And yes they sound wonderful when played well on the harpsichord, clavichord, virginal, and EVEN the piano. It is true that our present pianos sound nothing like the early pianos (which were made to sound a lot like harpsichords in any event). But this music does stand up to interpretations on the modern piano.

    Here we have first rate playing and first-rate interpretation and excellent recording techniques (if just a tad wet for my taste). I don't want to give up hearing this music in any medium. I want to hear it on harpsichord AND on the piano AND on the clavichord AND on anything else a first rate musician wants to play it on. That is the key for me. Who's playing it?

    I have to confess a weakness for ground basses and chaconne forms. Heck, I like the variation form - especially to play. The performance of the Chaconne in G Major here is quite wonderful. It caused me to dig out the music and have fun with it on my own piano. It is really fun to make the big octaves boom with those big chords. Kind of like an organ (another keyboard instrument that would work for the Chaconne).

    The Scarlatti on this disk will make you want to get your music off the shelf and work on them so you can play the music more like Perahia. He has wonderful tone and fluidity. But he also has humor and wit - something so many virtuosi lack. Remember, this is fun music above all! This is Spanish court music (written by an Italian) and shouldn't ever be brooding or angst ridden. Perahia understands this. Listening to this can be a rib tickling (as well as an ivory tickling) experience.

    Bravo!...more info
  • If I could give it 6 stars I would
    After spending about two weeks scouring for this CD, i finally managed to grab the only copy available from my local Tower Records store before deciding to order from Amazon.com as a last resort. I took this for a listen one night to perhaps have a little light soothing music before going to sleep, and it turned out that this CD kept me awake all night long.

    In the opening Prelude (track 1) of Handel's Suite No. 5, the left hand comes in with just an ordinary single melodic line, but it is when the right hand comes in that the magic and enchantment begins, with the Allemande (track 2), Courante (track 3) and Air (track 4) following shortly. And it is at this point where I was captivated by not only Murray Perahia's playing but the shape and flow of the music. I knew that more was to come, and indeed, the Chaconne in G (track 5) blew me away totally, with breathtaking lyricism, beautiful contrapuntal weavings, flawless technique, controlled structural balance and startling virtuosity. All i could do was stare at my stereo while the CD spins and worship the sublimity of sound that was emanating from the speakers. This is baroque as I have never heard before.

    By the end of the 8-minute Chaconne I found myself at a total loss for words. And this is only the 5th track out of 22. I'm finding it hard to describe in words the section with the bass octaves and running right-hand passages. Just take a listen to it and you'll see what I mean. I'll be searching for the Chaconne score the moment I have free time to spare. Needless to say the following tracks are equally brilliant. Unforgettable are the Air from Suite No. 3 (track 10) and Allegro from Suite No. 2 (track 13), my personal favourites alongside the Chaconne.

    Perahia gives us a treat from Scarlatti in the second half of the programme, featuring 7 of the probably less known sonatas. I have played a selected few of Scarlatti's sonatas not in this CD and have enjoyed them, but with Perahia's playing of these Sonatas, particularly K27 (track 17), I feel compelled to dig out my Scarlatti Sonata score and start playing it, to indulge myself further in the characteristic excellence of Scarlatti.

    What else can I say? After a 1st listening of this CD i immediately replayed it again, trying to make myself believe that such music ever existed and is played by one of the most accomplished pianists of our time. I am currently attempting one of J.S.Bach's Partitas, and I believe that if I could ever attain perhaps a fifth of Perahia's fluidity and lyricism palpably expressed in the Chaconne and incorporate it into the Partita, I would be greatly contented.

    This is a disc that should never be missed. Take my word for it. A CD that is truly a treasure. And a big BRAVO to Murray Perahia, who already astounded me the first time he came to my country for a one night performance of Beethoven/Schubert repertoire....more info

  • Enchanting, with Flawless Musicianship
    You cannot go wrong. It is exquisite....more info
  • Intensely moving
    I've never been a great fan of Handel and have always adored Domenico Scarlatti, however on this album all the pieces are great. The Handel playing is much more engaging and less tinny than the famous Gavrilov/richter Recordings of the 70s.
    I believe that the standout track is no 17, Scarlatti's Sonata in B Minor, K27. I'm no pianist, although I love classical music profoundly. For me the playing is subtle, full of dynamic colour, light and shade, and intensely moving pianism. I don't listen to it often, just so that I can always know that when I put it on I'm transported into a realm of the exquisitely beautiful, it's that good.
    Classical music is a bottomless pit, you have all the named genius composers from a couple or so hundred years ago, and what a treat that the interpreters can be geniuses in their own right, they don't have to be composers, their interpretations are available to us in ever increasing sonic depth, richness, warmth and clarity. Dim the light, put on track 17 and await deliverance....more info
  • Best piano playing on record
    Well maybe that is a bit exaggerated but it certainly ranks way up there with the best.

    I was fortunate enough to see Murray Perahia perform a number of these pieces in Oxford during the period leading up this recording. Handel's Chaconne in particular stuck in my mind after the concert as it had a profound affect on me. I am not one moved to tears often but the tears flowed in the concert and they still flow when I listen to this recording.

    The "Harmonious Blacksmith" is another astonishing piece on piano.

    In fact the whole album is astonishing. The playing is precise and clear at all times, as baroque music should be, but Mr Perahia manages to avoid a mechanical approach, injecting humanity into the music without sentimentality.

    I could waffle on for ages but all you need to know is that this album is truly breathtaking and should be in every music lovers collection.

    Heck buy two copies so you can keep one in the car permanently ;-)

    Just a pity Handel and Scarlatti couldn't hear it!...more info
  • The most stunning music I have ever heard
    I first heard this music on the radio while driving my car. I had to pull over because I was so stunned by the beauty of Perahia's playing. There just are not words to describe how moving this album is....more info
  • Beautiful, powerful and entrancing
    I heard this CD from outside the store and the music literally drew me inside to buy it. Perahia's interpretation of each standard is masterful and entrancing. Buy it and you will listen to it again and again - the music is wonderful and the CD quality is great....more info