The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: Alessandro Dei
total time: 61:26
label: EMA Records (30007)
Via delle Croci 15
I-50056 Fibbiana (FI)
tel/fax: +39 0571 542897
Alessandro Dei, accordion
Transcribed for accordion by Alessandro Dei
- Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
- Sonata in C Major, K159
- Sonata in G Major, K455
- Sonata in D Major, K397
- Sonata in F# Major, K318
- Sonata in C Major, K406
- Sonata in F minor, K365
- Sonata in C minor, K11
- Sonata in C Major, K133
- Sonata in D minor, K141
- Sonata in A Major, K322
- Sonata in B minor, K87
- Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759)
- Suite in B-flat Major
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
- Partita II in C minor BWV826
- Sinfonia (Grave/Adagio/Andante/Allegro)
Review by James P. O'Brien
Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas:
- Sonata in C Major, K159 (2:01)
- This is a spirited and well-known sonata of Scarlatti that appropriately opens this
recording. Alessandro Dei admirably establishes the mood and
intent of the album with this selection. Most Domenico Scarlatti
sonatas are written in AB form, the second section repeating much
of the opening material but in the dominant key. The performer has
elected to repeat both sections so what is heard is AABB in form
(although he often elects to observe only the initial repeat [AAB]
in most of the subsequent sonatas). Dei thoroughly conveys Baroque
technique of the harpsichord and strives for a lean, clean reed
sound on his instrument, with excellent terracing of the dynamics
on repeated phrases, forte and then piano. The tempo, as intended,
is relentless, the technique, clean and appropriately
- Sonata in G Major, K455 (2:22)
- Many of the comments articulated in the opening sonata are relevant here as
well. The particular emphasis in this sonata is upon repeated pitches, which
Dei executes crisply and musically.
- Sonata in D Major, K397 (2:15)
- More lyric than the opening sonatas, Dei provides a rich accompaniment in this
composition, taking care never to let the harmony overshadow the
theme. Terraced dynamics and dramatic pauses help define important
musical ideas here.
- Sonata in F# Major, K318 (3:48)
- This sonata is harmonically daring and explorative, creating a lush texture to
accompany the gentle melody. Dei shapes his musical phrases, which
are quite long in this sonata, expressively while remaining
faithful to Baroque practice in dynamics and ornamentation.
- Sonata in C Major, K406 (2:52)
- This dance-like sonata is played with zest and energy, with excellent attention
to executing diatonic passages clearly and ornamentation tightly. The
B section demonstrates Scarlatti's daring in harmony, moving away
from the basic tonality, much like a mini-development section.
- Sonata in F minor, K365 (3:17)
- The darker affection of minor is conveyed appropriately and the performer is masterful
in emphasizing inner, moving voices where they occur. Playing is
never routine and there is much to hear and absorb in this
performance. Dei clearly understands Scarlatti and provides a
faithful rendition in this (and all) transcriptions. One never
wishes he or she were hearing the harpsichord instead of the
- Sonata in C minor, K11 (2:35)
- A slower tempo, fitting of the darker minor quality, highlights the descending
theme with its suggested countermelody.
- Sonata in C Major, K133 (4:00)
- Articulation is especially appropriate here to emphasize the sprightly and playful
melody. It is noteworthy that the performer never allows the
timbre of the accordion, which can be overwhelming, to mar the
clarity of melodic line and accompaniment. He never intrudes with
fortes which are beyond Baroque intent. These forward looking
sonatas demand Classic restraint and Dei achieves it.
- Sonata in D minor, K141 (2:53)
- This is a dramatic and virtuoso sonata, much like a keyboard toccata, requiring
incredible technique for good performance results. Dei is up to
the task, providing sharp accents in the left-hand while
supporting the omnipresently energetic melody and allowing the
dynamics to grow to a dramatic climax.
- Sonata in A Major, K322 (2:20)
- This composition has the clarity and simplity of a Mozart piano sonata, with sparse
accompaniment and folk-like melody which tries to decide whether
it wants to be major or minor. Articulation is clean and
- Sonata in B minor, K87 (3:34)
- The opening is chordal and organ-like, much thicker in density than the previous sonata.
This sonata is somewhat atypical and sounds more like what Cesar
Franck might pen over a century later. Nonetheless, it shows the
composers versatility and harmonic daring for his time period. Dei
conveys the musical and technical intent without a whimper.
Georg Friedrich Handel Suite in B-flat Major:
- Allemande (1:44)
- This binary, largely homophonic, movement is precisely performed, with excellent attention to
implied inner voices. It is moderate in tempo and spirited with
appropriate ornamentation. Although the timbre (reed choice) is
somewhat too rich for my taste, this dance movement is conveyed
faithfully to Baroque performance practice.
- Courante (1:33)
- This contrasting "running" dance in triple time is performed in a controlled manner. The performer has
chosen in these dances to observe repeats in both sections,
lending the listener ample opportunity to process the musical
detail Handel penned.
- Sarabande (2:59)
- The pompous, ceremonial feeling of this sarabande of Spanish origin provides a fitting contrast in
both ornamentation and tempo to the opening German and French
dances, respectively. The listener can indeed envision court
dancers moving across a drawing room floor with detailed arm
gestures and low foot movements in this movement.
- Gigue (1:25)
- The playful jig, made courtly in this French dance, provides a frolic at the conclusion of this sonata
da camera, based on international dance rhythms. Dei captures the
essence of each dance movement with charm and precision, providing
marked contrast between each.
J.S. Bach Partita II in C minor BWV826 :
- Sinfonia (Grave/Adagio/Andante/Allegro) (4:53)
- The slow opening section uses the dotted (almost doubly so) rhythmic
pattern of the contemporary French overture, pompous and noble.
For the ensuing andante, Dei chooses a lighter reed and
easier flow, contrasting markedly with the opening grave.
The left hand provides a complementary continuo accompaniment to
the ornate right hand melody. Dei correctly interprets the
closing much like seco recitativo, with cessation of the
beat or senza battuta. The concluding allegro
provides yet more variety and the left hand technique of the
performer in this concluding passage is particularly impressive.
- Allemande (4:39)
- The tempo of this German dance in quadruple time is moderate. The melodic line is nicely delineated
against the continuo, emphasizing the contrast between the two
moving lines. Dei uses AABB repetition in this performance and
proves particularly adept in bringing out implied inner voices in
the right hand by minute attention to phrasing.
- Courante (2:32)
- This dance contrasts with the allemande in meter (triple) and
general busyness. Dei's choice of reeds is good and clearly helps delineate
melodic line as well as provide contrast between movements. He
repeats both sections as he did the allemande.
Ornamentation is very good in this dance.
- Sarabande (3:29)
- There is reminder in this slow dance that Bach also wrote Air in G from an orchestral
suite. The performer provides different ornamentation on section
repeats, a delightful surprise.
- Rondeau (1:21)
- This musical frolic is daring and exciting, demonstrating once again the incredible left hand
technique of the performer. The tempo is breathtaking in this
optional dance in triple time.
- Capriccio (3:43)
- This is an obligatory dance in the partita, taking the place of the gigue. It provides noble
conclusion, much like the opening sinfonia.
At the conclusion of this review, I was compelled to return to
the Scarlatti sonatas and the Bach partita and play them on the
piano, an instrument of transcription for these early 18th Century
works. How appropriate that the performer on this CD has chosen these
for transcriptions for accordion, another borrowed instrument, since
they were originally intended for harpsichord. I found the sonatas,
the Handel suite and the Bach partita delightful and appropriate
interpretations, composed by three contemporaries who were all born
in the same year and who lived about the same length of time. What a
wonderful way to ensure their music lives on among another group of
aficionados. I applaud Alessandro Dei for his fine transcriptions and
his impeccably polished performances! This is a musician's CD,
particularly if he or she plays the accordion.