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ClassicsOnline Home » SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 7
The son of Alessandro Scarlatti, who created a new school of opera in Naples, Domenico Scarlatti is particularly renowned for his remarkable keyboard sonatas, of which some 555 survive. Written for performance on the various keyboard instruments of the Spanish court, where Scarlatti was employed for many years, these astonishingly inventive and absorbing sonatas alternate between quick-witted virtuoso effects and deeply expressive lyricism.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 7
Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples in 1685, sixth of the ten children of the composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Sicilian by birth and chiefly responsible for the early development of Neapolitan opera. The Scarlatti family had extensive involvement in music both in Rome and in Naples, where Alessandro Scarlatti became maestro di cappella to the Spanish viceroy in 1684. Domenico Scarlatti started his public career in 1701 under his father’s aegis as organist and composer in the vice-regal chapel. The following year father and son took leave of absence to explore the possibilities of employment in Florence, and Alessandro was later to exercise paternal authority by sending his son to Venice, where he remained for some four years. In 1709 Domenico entered the service of the exiled Queen of Poland, Maria Casimira, in Rome, there meeting and playing against Handel in a keyboard contest, in which the latter was declared the better organist and Scarlatti the better harpsichordist. It has been suggested that he spent a period from 1719 in Palermo, but his earlier connection with the Portuguese embassy in Rome led him before long to Lisbon, where he became music-master to the children of the royal family. This employment took him in 1728 to Madrid, when his pupil the Infanta Maria Barbara married the heir to the Spanish throne. Scarlatti apparently remained there for the rest of his life, his most considerable achievement the composition of some hundreds of single-movement sonatas or exercises, designed largely for the use of the Infanta, who became Queen of Spain in 1746.
The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti survive in part in a number of eighteenth century manuscripts, some clearly from the collection of Queen Maria Barbara, possibly bequeathed to the great Italian castrato Farinelli, who was employed at the Spanish court, and now in Venice. Various sets of sonatas were published during the composer’s lifetime, including a set of thirty issued in Venice or, perhaps, in London in 1738, and 42 published in London by Thomas Roseingrave in 1739, including the thirty already available from the earlier publication. In more recent times the sonatas were edited by Alessandro Longo, who provided the numerical listing under L, and in 1953 the American harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick offered a new listing, distinguished by the letter K. Stylistic grounds have suggested a further changed listing by Giorgio Pestelli, under the letter P., and proposing a new chronology.
 The last sonata of the thirty included in the eleventh Venice volume, the Sonata in F major, K.483/L.472/P.407, marked Presto, is in 3/8 metre and makes familiar use of sequence and of double mordents, ornaments shared by both hands.
 The Sonata in F major, K.542/L.167/P.546, is found in the thirteenth of the fifteen Parma volumes, dated 1757, and is one of the last included in the Venice manuscripts. Marked Allegretto and in 3/4 metre, it touches on minor keys and includes a curious use of divided octaves in the left hand in the concluding section of each half of the piece.
 The Sonata in B flat major, K.360/L.400/P.520, is preserved in the eighth of the Venice volumes, dated 1754. It is marked Allegro and in Alla breve metre.
 The Sonata in C minor, K.40/L.357/P.119, is first found in the set of 42 Suite de pièces published in London in 1739 by Thomas Roseingrave. In 3/4 metre the sonata is marked Minuetto and is in a purely classical style, with no trace of Spain about it.
 From the tenth Venice volume of 1755 comes the Sonata in C major, K.422/L.451/P.511, marked Allegro and alla breve. With echoes of Spain, it explores the full range of the keyboard.
 The Sonata in F minor, K.238/L.27/P.55, is found in the fourth of the fifteen manuscript volumes of Scarlatti sonatas in Venice, dated 1753. Marked Andante, the sonata is in a dotted rhythm that suggests French style, but, according to Ralph Kirkpatrick, recalls a folk-song from Estremadura.
 From the thirty Essercizi published in London and advertised for sale in 1738 by Adamo Scola in Vine Street, described in the notice as Musick Master, comes the Sonata in F major, K.17/L.384/P.73, marked Presto and in 3/8 metre.
 The Sonata in A major, K.500/L.492/P.358, is marked Allegro and is in 3/4 metre. It is found in the twelfth Venice volume, dated 1756, and is characterized by chains of descending broken sixths in both the right hand and the left hand.
 The Sonata in A major, K.114/L.344/P.141, marked Spirito e presto, is found in the fifteenth of the Venice volumes, dated 1749, and has suggestions of the traditionally Spanish.[
 The primary source for the Sonata in E minor, K.291/L.61/P.282, marked Andante, is the fifth of the Venice books. It is paired by Ralph Kirkpatrick with K.292, in the same key. The character of the piece appears in the opening rhythmic figure.
 The Sonata in G major, K.328/L.S27/P.485, marked Andante comodo, is included in the seventh Venice volume, dated 1754. In 6/8 metre, it is included by Ralph Kirkpatrick among pieces for organ.
 The Sonata in A major, K.320/L.341/P.335, marked Allegro, is found in the sixth volume of the Venice collection, dated 1753. In 2/2 metre it introduces arpeggio patterns into its opening theme and includes passages of sixths to exercise the player’s ability.
 The Sonata in G major, K.283/L.318/P.482, marked Andante Allegro, is found in the fifth of the Venice volumes, dated 1753. The dates refer, of course, to the date of copying rather than those of composition, but do suggest an obvious terminus post quem non, if nothing else. The sonata opens with a theme based on the ascending scale.
 The Sonata in C major, K.464/L.151/P.460, makes much use of imitative entries. Marked Allegro, it is found in the eleventh volume of the Venice collection, dated 1756.
 The Sonata in D major, K.313/L.192/P.398, is marked Allegro, and is found in the sixth of the Venice manuscript volumes of sonatas, dated 1753. In 3/8 metre, it opens with the series of thirds so characteristic of the composer’s keyboard writing.
 The primary source for the Sonata in D major, K.479/LS.16/P.380, marked Allegrissimo, is the eleventh volume of the Venice manuscripts, dated 1755. The sonata opens with a descending arpeggio, echoed in the left hand, and contains a series of interesting modulations to remoter keys.
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