Domenico Scarlatti wrote over 600 keyboard sonatas. Many styles and moods are represented in such a vast repertoire. The three on this recording represent a range of emotions, from the bright E-Major (L.430) with its momentum building triplets, to the pensive g-minor (L.128) which transports the listener to another world, and finally the virtuosic and well-known d-minor (L. 422). A trip through the Lukmanier Pass in Switzerland and on to the Valle Verzasca inspired me to program these Sonatas as I felt the history and soul of a bygone Italian era in the stone bridges, churches, and rugged alpine landscapes.
Mozart's Piano Sonata in c-minor K. 457, composed in Vienna in 1784, was published in 1785 with the Fantasy in c-minor K. 475. Both are dramatic works and among the only minor key solo works Mozart wrote for piano, including the popular a-minor Sonata K. 310. Mozart carefully selected the keys of his pieces and c-minor is considered especially expressive. Strong contrasts of emotion and dynamics in the CPE Bach style of "Sturm und Drang" characterize both the Sonata and Fantasy. They are among my favorite works to perform in recital due to the depth of emotion possible.
Brahms' Intermezzi Opus 117 were written in 1892, the year Brahms lost a close friend and his sister Elise. Brahms said the third, in c#-minor was "the lullaby of all my grief." All three works are pensive and introspective and suggest elements of the cycle of life. The first Intermezzo, in Eb-Major Andante moderato, alludes to sleep and youth with a line from a famous Scottish lullaby quoted on the first page: "Balou, my boy, lie still and sleep, it grieves me sore to hear thee weep." The mood is calm although the middle section alludes to underlying tension. The second Intermezzo, in b-flat-minor Andante non troppo e con molta espressione, features a rather sad and lilting melody that suggest a struggle with life, with the memories of the past, or with the knowledge that life will end and cross over to another realm. The last section explodes with the struggle and restatements of the them until the tragedy and weight of b-flat-minor emerges with a slowly rising arpeggiation that reveal the tonic, fifth and then the minor 3rd to suggest defeat and sadness.
The 3rd Intermezzo, in c#-minor Andante con Moto, starts with a glimmer of hope with the motion of the opening 8th notes and the rising, striving melodic line. The second section evolves with a sighing repeated motive that adds tension to the motion. Sections repeated themselves highlight the instability and uncertainty until a cryptic transition, with fermata pauses, chromatically leads the melody back to a re-harmonized opening theme. Repetition seems to signal defeat as the piece ends with one last theme restatement and an affirmation of the c#-sharp minor tonic with spare chord voicings. Life is not an easy proposition and death may not always provide the dead or the survivors with the peace they hope for. This Opus 117 set is among Brahms' most personal solo piano works.