Ignorance is bliss in this case. We thought this CD of piano renditions of Scarlatti sonatas beautiful, but read a number of reviews that said purists might want to hear the works played on a harpsichord. Obviously, by the same token they should embrace all elements of life in the late c17th: bubonic plague, slavery, poverty, civil war, and a lack of electricity for home appliances. We no longer routinely play harpsichords. Get over it.
Sudbin himself, who made his debut a decade ago on BIS with Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas, says in the informative sleeve notes that it’s a relief playing the music for that very reason: freed from the “scary term” of “historical performance” the pianist is left free to compose their own take on the pieces “using any means one may consider appropriate,” he says.
The playing is mighty fine, and we suspect that Sudbin is doing to the piano (a Steinway D, which Wikipedia reports is the flagship of the Steinway and Sons line) what someone like Buddy Rich did to the drums, extracting everything the instrument has to offer. Not that it’s showy: there are some complex sections that Sudbin gallops through but he’s out to impress by restraint and there are also some lovely slower sections.
Out on BIS, 2138, and it’s a SACD. (Though if you’re a purist, you can’t have any of that modern nonsense. Get someone to play it on a harpsichord and listen through an ear trumpet).