The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Zhang Guoping
Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas

Zhang Guoping: Piano Accordion


Sonata in F Major
Sonata in f minor
Sonata in E Major
Sonata in G Major
sonata in A Major
Sonata in C Major
Sonata in E Major
Sonata in d minor
Sonata in b minor
Sonata in D Major
Sonata in E Major
Sonata in f minor
All selections by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757).

total time: 56 min. and 08 sec.
released: unknown
review date: November, 2000

Order from: The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. Online Gift Store

Review by Robert Karl Berta :

I previously reviewed a CD by Zhang Guoping for the Free Reed Review titled 14 Golden Accord Music. If you refer back to that review you will recall how totally overwhelmed I was by the gorgeous recording, technical virtuosity displayed and musicality of that recording. I was expecting more of the same when I received this CD for review. If possible this CD proved to be even more satisfying. This is perhaps one of the two purest accordion CDs I have ever heard...the other is Oivind Farmen's Baroque recording. By pure I mean that the recorded sound is faithful to what you would hear in a live accordion performance. There is no equalization, strong stereo emphasis or booming reverb that renders the accordion as a different instrument than what it really is.

This recording does venture into a bit of a dangerous territory. Rather than a sampler of various styles or composers, Zhang has dedicated this entire CD to the Sonatas of Scarlatti. Often the biggest fault I find with accordion recordings is they tend to be more of the performers resume than a collection of music with a common thread. Often, it seems, the artist is trying to tell you..."Look what I and the accordion can do." The focus of attention is directed to the musician rather than the composer and the music. Here Zhang is putting the composer on display rather than himself or his instrument. And in so doing the music is glorified by the formidable skills of the performer.

I found Zhang's accordion interesting. I have recently had the opportunity to play an identical model and found it fun but challenging. The Giulietti double tone chamber Continental he chose has a unique bass system. Besides a standard Stradella system it also has an additional three rows of free bass notes between the normal counter bass row and the bellows. This avoids the need to utilize a converter switch to move between the two bass systems. It does make the bass mechanism much larger (heavier) and requires a longer reach to get to the free bass but it can be done as Zhang has so convincingly demonstrated.

I guess if you didn't care for classic music that enjoy music that "shouts" in your face...or Scarlatti wasn't that high on your list of favorite composers, you might pass over this recording...that would be a shame. I have heard many instrumental performances of this music over the years. Everything from full blown orchestras, to small ensembles to pipe organs to harmonica even synthesizer performances. While accordionists sometimes attempt to perform music that just doesn't work on an accordion (like Chopin's Piano classics), there IS music that, while not written for accordion, seems to find a voice when played on accordion. And this collection of Scarlatti sonatas certainly proves that the accordion can indeed find a niche in classic music that takes advantage of its inherent characteristics. In the hands of Zhang the bellows breathes life into this music in a way that Scarlatti would approve of I am sure. From the slow precise strains of the E Major Sonata to the happy dance-like notes of the D Major (my favorite) you will enjoy this amazing collection.

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