In 1951, a young harpsichordist named Fernando Valenti went into the recording studios of Westminster Records to produce a long-playing phonograph record devoted entirely to keyboard music of a relatively obscure Italian-Iberian baroque composer named Domenico Scarlatti. At that time, harpsichordists were still a fairly rare breed, and although Wanda Landowska had courageously recorded several dozen Scarlatti sonatas in the 1930s, his music was still known principally to non-specialists by only a few miniatures played in arrangements as encores at piano recitals.
Valenti’s Scarlatti recording was an instant success. More Scarlatti was demanded, and thus began the first major attempt to record the gargantuan cycle of some 550 keyboard sonatas in modern times. (On a few sonatas, he is joined by violinist Julian Olevsky.)
For the next decade, volumes of Scarlatti sonatas played by Valenti continued to be cranked out, 12 sonatas to the LP. Collectors eagerly awaited volumes 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20… Unfortunately, just as stereo recording was beginning to revolutionize the recording industry, trouble was brewing. The Valenti/Scarlatti Project would not be finished. To this day musicians wonder if Valenti actually managed to record all of the 545 sonatas in the Longo Edition (plus the Menuet in F)—he did not. A finite number of sonatas was released on LP. And, after years of collecting, scrounging, horse trading, and begging, I believe I have assembled all of the music of Domenico Scarlatti that was ever commercially released by Westminster Records (and its heirs Music Guild and MCA), as played by Fernando Valenti: 359 sonatas in all. This series of videos will eventually include all of these recordings.
A NOTE ABOUT THE RECORDINGS: These recordings were made over 60 years ago. They have been unavailable commercially for many decades. I have been collecting these now rare recordings for over 30 years by searching used record stores, browsing the Internet, and trading copies with other collectors. I have had to use a variety of sources, including original LPs, open reel tapes, and cassette tapes. In many cases, I had to use second- and third-generation copies of the original LP sources. For these reasons, while the original mono sound of the Westminster LPs was quite good for the 1950s, the sound quality of these recordings varies somewhat from track to track. Many are quite good; some unfortunately are not. I must apologize for some quiet background hum in some sonatas which can be heard between tracks. It is felt that the historical significance of these remarkable performances by Fernando Valenti, the first artist to record nearly all of Scarlatti’s voluminous oeuvre for keyboard, far outweighs the shortcomings of sound quality found in some of the sonatas.
The sonatas have been arranged according to the Longo edition (Ricordi). Valenti’s recording project pre-dates the publication of Ralph Kirkpatrick’s seminal research on Domenico Scarlatti, and his chronological arrangement of the sonatas (including pairing) was essentially unknown at the time. Valenti recorded the sonatas in a more-or-less random order. Still, some ordering system is necessary given the scope of the project, and it seemed appropriate to use the ordering system known to Valenti (and used as identification on the LPs themselves), that of the original Longo edition. Those familiar with Kirkpatrick’s numbering system can easily cross-check the numbers with charts readily available in his book and on the internet.