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CD Review: Alessandro Dei
Keyboard Music

CD Image

total time: 61:26
released: 1999

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
      • Allemande
      • Courante
      • Sarabande
      • Gigue
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
    • Partita II in C minor BWV826
      • Sinfonia (Grave/Adagio/Andante/Allegro)
      • Allemande
      • Courante
      • Sarabande
      • Rondeau
      • Capriccio

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 articulated.
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 accordion.
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 appropriate.
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.

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