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Domenico Scarlatti
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti, in full Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (born October 26, 1685, Naples [Italy]—died July 23, 1757, Madrid, Spain), Italian composer noted particularly for his 555 keyboard sonatas, which substantially expanded the technical and musical possibilities of the harpsichord.

Early life and vocal works: Italy
Domenico, the son of the famous composer of vocal music Alessandro Scarlatti, was born in the same year as J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel. At age 15 he secured an appointment as organist in Naples. In 1703 his first operas, L’Ottavia restituita al trono and Il Giustino, were produced there. In 1705 his father sent him away from Naples to Venice, reputedly to study with the composer Francesco Gasparini. While in Venice, Scarlatti may have met a young Irishman, Thomas Roseingrave, who many years later described Domenico’s harpsichord playing to the English musicologist Charles Burney as sounding as if “ten hundred d…s had been at the instrument; he had never heard such passages of execution and effect before.” Scarlatti may have also formed a friendship with Handel while in Venice.

By the spring of 1709 Scarlatti had taken over his father’s position in Rome as musical director and composer to the exiled queen Maria Casimira of Poland. Until her departure in 1714, he composed a series of operas and occasional pieces, all of them on texts by the queen’s secretary, Carlo Sigismondo Capeci. Some of the music has survived, but, were it not for the reflected glory cast upon it by the later harpsichord sonatas, this music would inspire little interest today.

By 1713 Scarlatti had established relations with the Vatican, and from 1714 to 1719 he held the position of musical director of the Julian Chapel at St. Peter’s. Of the surviving church music that appears to date from this time, only the 10-voice Stabat Mater gives a hint of the genius that was to find its long-delayed flowering in the harpsichord sonatas.

During these years Scarlatti brought to an end his apparently never-too-successful career as an opera composer with Ambleto (1715); it had an intermezzo, La Dirindina, which, because of the liberties of its text, was withdrawn from performance in Rome. His endeavours also produced Berenice, regina di Egitto (1718), with music by both himself and Nicola Porpora. More promising for the future were his relations with the Portuguese embassy, for which in 1714 he composed a cantata in honour of the birth of a crown prince of Portugal.
In September 1719 Scarlatti abandoned his post at the Vatican, and by the end of 1720 he was in Lisbon, where his serenata Contesa delle Stagioni was performed at the royal palace on September 6. He had become musical director to King John V of Portugal, as well as music master to the king’s younger brother Don Antonio and to Princess Maria Bárbara de Bragança, who was to remain his patroness and for whom most of the harpsichord sonatas were later written. The production of serenades and church music continued, most of it adequate but hardly distinguished, if judged by surviving pieces. But a major change was taking place in Scarlatti’s life. In 1725 his father died; in 1728 he made his last visit to Italy to marry at the unusually late age of 43 a young Roman, Maria Caterina Gentili, who before her death in 1739 bore him six children (four more were born to his second marriage, with the Spanish Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes); and also in 1728 his pupil Maria Bárbara married the Spanish crown prince, the future Ferdinand VI, and Scarlatti followed the royal pair to Spain.



 

Later life and keyboard works: Spain
There he was to spend his remaining years, first in Sevilla (Seville), perhaps already listening to Spanish popular music and imitating, as Burney tells us, “the melody of tunes sung by carriers, muleteers, and common people,” and after 1733 in the royal residences of Madrid and at the nearby palaces of La Granja, El Escorial, and Aranjuez. Many links with the past seem to have been cut, and an emancipation seems to have taken place that permitted the extraordinary stylistic development of the harpsichord sonatas. Scarlatti virtually disappears as a composer of vocal music, and there is no evidence of his participation in the extravagant opera productions directed at court by his friend the castrato singer Farinelli.

The fullest surviving record of Scarlatti’s life and character is to be found in the series of harpsichord sonatas that began with the publication of his Esercizi per gravicembalo (Exercises) in 1738, which contained 30 sonatas. The series of sonatas continued brilliantly with manuscript volumes copied out for Maria Bárbara in 1742 and 1749. She became queen of Spain in 1746, and the musical activities of the Spanish court became more lavish than ever. But the principal evidence of Scarlatti’s own activity continues to reside in the final great series of harpsichord sonatas copied out for the queen from 1752 to 1757, the year of Scarlatti’s death.

This music ranges from the courtly to the savage, from an almost saccharine urbanity to an acrid violence. Its gaiety is all the more intense for an undertone of tragedy. Its moments of meditative melancholy are at times overwhelmed by a surge of extrovert operatic passion. Most particularly he has expressed that part of his life which was lived in Spain. There is hardly an aspect of Spanish life, of Spanish popular music and dance, that has not found itself a place in the microcosm that Scarlatti created with his sonatas. No Spanish composer, not even Manuel de Falla in the 20th century, has expressed the essence of his native land as completely as did the foreigner Scarlatti. He has captured the click of castanets, the strumming of guitars, the thud of muffled drums, the harsh bitter wail of gypsy lament, the overwhelming gaiety of the village band, and above all the wiry tension of the Spanish dance.
(R. K.: Domenico Scarlatti)

There are also abundant echoes of the festivities of the Spanish court, of the wind instruments and drums of state processions, of the horns and oboes of the royal hunt, of fireworks and artillery salvos, and of the music from the royal barges that floated over the waters of the Tagus during the summer embarkations at Aranjuez.

All of this does not find expression merely in loosely knit impressionistic program music, but is assimilated and distilled with all the rigour that Scarlatti had learned from his 16th century ecclesiastical masters, and is given forth again in a pure musical language that extends far beyond the domain of mere harpsichord virtuosity. All is assimilated into an unfailing sense of the larger context. In those last five years as he wrote sonata after sonata Scarlatti was reliving his entire life, living it more intensely than ever before, bringing it to fruition.
(Ibid.)

 




Sonatas

Of Scarlatti’s 555 sonatas, about 10 are for violin and continuo, 3 are specifically for organ, and the rest are for harpsichord. Scarlatti’s most mature period and largest output was concentrated in the years between 1753, when he was 67, and his death four years later. A consistent development is perceptible in his harpsichord music, essentially characterized by an expansion of simple binary dance form through elaborations of thematic organization and extensions of tonal range. Spectacular innovations in keyboard virtuosity—including hand crossing—are often accompanied by audacious dissonances, unconventional voice leading, and far-flung modulations. The predominance of fast movements in the earlier sonatas gives way to a greater frequency of slow movements in the middle period, to a wider range of lyricism, and in the later sonatas to a leaner, more concentrated style.

Although a few of the early sonatas, such as those for violin, consist of up to four movements, the bulk are single movements, normally in two sections. At least 388, however, were apparently composed as sonata pairs, either in the same key or related keys, and represent, in effect, 194 two-movement sonatas. These either contrast slow movements with fast ones, couple complementary fast movements, or extend the total tonal range of a pair conceived as a unit. There are also at least a dozen sonatas arranged in triptychs.

The instrument for which most of the late sonatas were composed appears to have been a one-manual harpsichord of the traditional Mediterranean kind, with an extended compass of five octaves and with two eight-foot registers. On a background of such simplicity and seeming limitation of resources, Scarlatti imposed a variety of sonorities and textures that elevate his writing for the harpsichord to a level comparable to that of Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt for the piano.

Shortly before his death, Scarlatti returned at least once more to vocal music, with a Salve Regina for soprano and strings, perhaps the most beautiful of his vocal compositions and one of the few meriting survival.



 

Influence and reputation
Except for 18th-century English publications of his earlier sonatas and a few Continental reprints, the bulk of Scarlatti’s keyboard music was almost unknown beyond his immediate circle and exercised little direct influence on his Italian successors or on German and Austrian composers such as C.P.E. Bach, Joseph Haydn, W.A. Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, a number of whose stylistic features it anticipated.

It was not until the edition prepared by the Italian pianist Alessandro Longo that virtually all the harpsichord sonatas became available. Longo published, from 1906, an almost complete edition of arrangements for piano of 545 sonatas, grouping them according to key but splitting up Scarlatti’s sonata pairs and paying scant regard to chronology and style. The flaws in this and other editions hampered any serious understanding of the sonatas’ stylistic development and coherence. In his monograph Domenico Scarlatti (1953), Ralph Kirkpatrick provided a complete list of works and renumbered 555 sonatas in the chronological order of the printed and manuscript collections. Kirkpatrick’s numbering of the sonatas subsequently replaced that of Longo. With the respective complete editions of Kirkpatrick and of Kenneth Gilbert (1971–84), which maintain the chronological order and pairwise arrangement of sources, an unobstructed view of Scarlatti’s keyboard work can now be obtained, revealing one of the most strikingly original styles of the 18th century.

Ralph Kirkpatrick

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
 
 
 
 
 

Domenico Scarlatti was one of the ten children of Alessandro Scarlatti, himself a notable opera composer. Domenico grew up in Naples and by the age of 16 had become organist and composer at the Neapolitan Royal chapel. Accompanied by his father, he sought work in Florence before returning to Naples and composing two Neapolitan operas in 1703 and performing a substantial rewrite of Pollarolo's Irene the following year.

Scarlatti spent the next four years in Venice, and in 1709 went directly into the service of Maria Casimira, the exiled Polish queen then living m Rome. He composed intensively, producing seven operas for the court, including in 1712 Tetide in Sciro, one of his 70 surviving operas. In 1713 he was appointed Maestro di Cappella to the Basilica Giulia in the Vatican, followed the next year by an appointment to the Portuguese ambassador to the Vatican, the Marquis de Fontes. This succession of posts allowed him to expand his interests in both sacred and secular music. Regular weekly recitals under the auspices of Cardinal Ottoboni, who had already taken Corelli under his wing, gave him the opportunity to meet Corelli and Thomas Roseingrave, an Irishman who later helped spread his fame in England. The Cardinal also introduced Scarlatti to Handel, and arranged a harpsichord-playing contest between the two.

In 1719 Scarlatti resigned his position. He spent two years as harpsichordist at the Italian Opera m London, and then went to Lisbon in Portugal, where he became the Mestre to the Patriarchal chapel. He made only a handful of return visits to his native country: one in 1725 to visit his dying father; and another to Rome in 1728 to marry Maria Gentili, aged 16 and some 27 years his junior.

Scarlatti finally settled m the employ of the musically gifted daughter of King John V, the Infanta Maria Barbara, and entered an extraordinary period of writing. His two 15-volume collections of sonatas for unaccompanied keyboard, mostly written for the Infanta, contain more than 500 works and established Scarlatti as one of the leading composers for the harpsichord. The Iberian influence is at times evident in these works, revealed in a guitar-like strumming effect achieved by rapid repetition of notes, and the sudden shifts from major to minor. These notoriously difficult pieces require the player to cross hands and play very rapid scales and arpeggios.

When the Infanta moved to Madrid, Scarlatti with his wife and five children moved as part of her court, and he eventually became Maestro de Camara in 1746. Such loyalty to his daughter impressed Kingjohn, who sponsored Scarlatti in his application to become a Knight of the Order of Santiago.

Scarlatti's move to the Iberian Peninsula was a significant event for the development of keyboard music. The Neapolitan style at that time, based around opera, was very limiting. Scarlatti, by moving away from this tendency, allowed himself a greater degree of experimentation and freedom to develop a wholly new form and style of keyboard composition.

 
 
 
 
 
 
   

Keyboard sonatas
   
  K208
 
  K377
 
  K183
 
  K466
 
  K481
 
  K551
 
  Sonata B minor 33
 
  Sonata D minor 
 
  Sonata G minor 1
 
  Sonata G minor 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Harpsichord Sonatas - Igor Kipnis ( Part 1 )
 
1. Sonata in A Major (Kirkpatrick 24)
2. Sonata D Minor (K.141)
3. Sonata In G Minor (K.426)
4. Sonata In G Major (K.427)
5. Sonata In C Minor (K.158)
6. Sonata In C Major (K.159)
7. Sonata In A Major (K.208)
8. Sonata In A Major (K.209)
9. Sonata In E Major (K.46)
10. Sonata In G Minor (K.30) 'The Cat's Fugue'
11. Sonata In E Major (K.380) 'Cortege'
12. Sonata In E Major (K.381)
13. Sonata In D Major (K.118)
14. Sonata In D Major (K.119)
15. Sonata In D Minor (K.120)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Harpsichord Sonatas - Igor Kipnis ( Part 2 )
 
K. 146
204a
204b
205
513
87
322
323
337
338
443
444
14
11
17

Clavichord

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Sonata in G - K108
 
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Magnificat
 
Performed by: Immortal Bach Ensamble, Morten Schuldt-Jensen
Picture by: Duomo di Monreale (Palermo)

1_Magnificat
2_Fecit potentiam
3_Esurientes
4_Gloria Patri

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Stabat Mater a 10 voci - Concerto Italiano - Rinaldo Alessandrini
 
Domenico Scarlatti - Stabat Mater a 10 voci - Concerto Italiano - Rinaldo Alessandrini - Anna Simboli, Monica Piccinini, Lia Serafini, Alena Dantcheva, soprani - Elena Biscuola, Andrea Arrivabene, alti - Gianluca Ferrarini, Luca Dordolo, tenori - Matteo Bellotto, Yiannis Vassilakis, bassi - Ugo Di Giovanni, Craig Marchitelli, tiorbe - Francesco Moi, organo - Rinaldo Alessandrini, direttore - Utrecht Festival, 28 agosto 2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
     
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