Although Christoph Ullrich’s multi-volume Scarlatti cycle is ordered numerically, the individual volumes are not being sequentially issued. For instance, Volume 11 actually was the second in the series to be released. I reviewed Volume 11, and expressed my enjoyment, with the caveat that Ullrich was not so consistently satisfying as his rival in Scarlatti completeness, Carlo Grante. Grante has since finished his cycle, while Ullrich still has a way to go as of March 2021. However, Volume 5’s selections attain a more consistent and inspired interpretive level than in previous volumes. Or perhaps I’m listening better? In any event, Ullrich’s technical poise and innate musicality beautifully merge.
He navigates the D major K, 178’s interlacing trills and scales with every accent and every nuance perfectly placed, and makes the F minor K. 185’s legato/detaché contrasts subtly distinct. The E-flat K. 193 has a sec crispness that contrasts with the warmer inflections other pianists usually bring to this music. On the other hand, the F major K. 194’s dry detachment wears out its welcome on account of Ullrich observing all of the repeats, but that’s also true of Grante’s slightly faster performance.
The B minor K. 197 is a master class in finger legato with little help from the pedal, while the F minor K. 204b features some of the most alluringly shaded repeated notes in the business. What is more, the pianist is not afraid to take a phrase or two up the octave upon repeats, or to discreetly reinforce bass lines with added octaves. Why clarinetist Ib Hausmann’s rambling quasi-avant-garde solo improvisation titled Scarlark appears as a bonus track is anybody’s guess. He can be heard to far more flattering advantage playing Max Reger’s complete clarinet works on Profil. I look forward to Ullrich’s further Scarlatti installments.Jed Distler
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