Scarlatti: Mandolin Sonatas

Domenico Scarlatti: Mandolin Sonatas
Pizzicar Galante
Arcana A115. 60’12

Although Domenico Scarlatti didn’t actually write any mandolin sonatas, that hasn’t stopped Pizzicar Galante followed an earlier practice of transcribing his harpsichord sonatas for mandolin. Their inspiration was the discovery, in the 1980s, of a late 18th-century manuscript in the Arsenal Library in Paris of the first movement of Scarlatti’s Sonata in D, K89, with the indication Sonatina per mandolino e cimbalo.

The mandolin, which originated in Naples, had became popular at the time in aristocratic circles around Europe. Mandolin and harpsichord players Anna Schivazappa and Fabio Antonio Falcone, have made additional transcriptions of their own from more of Scarlatti’s harpsichord Sonatas, featuring 11 of them on this CD.

The result is a delight, bringing a refreshingly different tonal palette to the original versions. Two Neapolitan mandolins are used, one dating from 1768, the other a modern instrument used for one Sonata, together with a slightly more pungent copy of an 1792 Lombard instrument used for three Sonatas. The sound of the original 18th-century Neapolitan mandolin is particularly attractive and delicate.

The Sonatas are accompanied by harpsichord, with the occasional addition of viola da gamba, theorbo and guitar. The arrangements and playing are entirely appropriate and reflect the wide range of styles and textures of Scarlatti’s original pieces. The balance between the mandolins and the accompaniments is well judged, avoiding any prominence of either.

More information and a link to a video can be found here.