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ClassicsOnline Home » SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 8
Domenico Scarlatti was born in the same year as Bach and Haendel. After serving in various capacities at several European courts, he settled in Portugal. In response to a knighthood conferred on him by King John V, he dedicated to the king (1738) a volume of what he modestly called Essercizi, consisting of over five hundred pieces for the keyboard. As one listens to these Sonatas, it is the never-failing invention and vitality of the music
that is so remarkable. In these works, concentrated into the resources of one keyboard instrument, one can hear all the fire and passion of Spanish life.
By Michael Bailey
By Jed Distler
By Patrick C. Waller
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 8
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.
[Track 1] The Sonata in A major, K.181/L.194/P.253 is found in the second of the Venice albums of 1752, a date that only provides a terminus post quem non. In duple metre, the sonata is united by a single theme. It is used by the Australian composer Arthur Benjamin in his Suite for Flute and Strings, based on Scarlatti's sonatas.
 The Sonata in E major, K.496/L.372/P.332, found in the twelfth Venice album of 1756, is in triple metre. It is characterized by a delicate triplet figure virtually throughout, apart from in the passage that opens the second half of the sonata.
 The very straightforward Sonata in C major, K.420/L. Supplement 2/P.352, has a forthright opening, with the recurrent and very Spanish rhythm of the saeta. It is preserved in the tenth Venice collection of 1755. The sonata is in 4/4.
 The Sonata in F minor, K.466/L.118/P.501, from the eleventh Venice volume of 1756, is a gentle, melancholic Andante, its opening phrase later serving as an accompaniment, when it is taken up by the left hand. The sonata is again in quadruple metre.
 The dashing Sonata in B flat major, K.441/ L.Supplement 39/P.375, provides an immediate contrast. It is preserved in the tenth of the Venice volumes, dated 1755. The opening figure has continuing importance in the modulations that follow, while the left hand has wide and emphatic leaps. The sonata is in duple metre.
 The minor key of the triple metre Sonata in B minor, K.87/L.33/P.43, offers a contrast, with four-part contrapuntal writing. It is preserved in the fourteenth Venice collection of 1742.
 Dated to before 1746 and found in the third album of pieces published in Paris by the Widow Boivin, née Ballard, the Sonata in D major, K.96/ L.465/P.210, is a very characteristic piece, in 3/8 and marked Allegrissimo, with a fanfare-like opening followed by figuration that, with its repeated notes, suggest the mandolin.
 The Sonata in G minor, K.426/L.128/P.128, in the same metre, provides a distinct contrast in its varied sequences. It is found in the tenth Venice collection of 1755.
 The dance-like Sonata in A flat major, K.127/L.186/P.198, has its primary source in the fifteenth Venice volume of 1749. It is a duple metre Allegro, opening with descending arpeggio figuration and a contrasting answer.
 The Sonata in F minor, K.462/L.438/P.474, an Andante in triple metre, has an air of gentle melancholy in its dialogue between the melodic lines of the upper and lower parts. The primary source listed by Ralph Kirkpatrick is the eleventh of the Venice volumes, dated 1756.
 An Allegro in duple metre, the Sonata in A minor, K.382/L.Supplement 33/P.508, is found among the thirty sonatas collected in the eighth Venice volume, dated 1754. For the most part in two-part polyphonic texture, the sonata offers some complexity in its rhythms, after the opening ascending scales have been stated and answered.
 The Sonata in C major, K.485/L.153/P.490, marked Andante cantabile and in 4/4, covers a wider range of registers than other sonatas. It is included in the twelfth Venice volume, dated 1756.
The sonata is dominated by the triplet figuration with which it opens, and finds a place for parallel sixths in the right hand, answered by left-hand octaves.
 The lively Sonata in A major, K.101/L.494/ P.156, an Allegro in 3/8, makes its character clear in its typical opening figuration. Its primary source is the fifteenth of the Venice albums, dated 1749, and it presents a succinct epitome of Scarlatti's style of keyboard-writing at its most brilliant.
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