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ClassicsOnline Home » SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 11 (Wallisch)
The son of Alessandro Scarlatti, who created a new school of opera in Naples, Domenico Scarlatti is particularly distinguished for his remarkable keyboard sonatas, of which some 555 are known. This significant addition to early 18th century keyboard repertoire was written for performance on the various keyboard instruments of the Spanish court, where Scarlatti was employed for many years, and in all their variety have long provided a valuable repertoire for pianists.
By David Denton
Last September I welcomed Gottlieb Wallisch’s persuasive handling of Schubert’s lesser piano works, and I am equally pleased to find him trying to make sense of Scarlatti on a modern piano. He chooses to come as close as possible to performances that would replicate the sound of a harpsichord, keeping everything as dry and uncluttered as is possible within the bounds of piano resonance. That in turn creates a clarity the composer would have heard when fashioning the sonatas. Never intended to break through musical boundaries, they represent some of the finest keyboard scores of the day, though at the time were intended for teaching his pupils. The disc contains eighteen tracks taken from the sonatas published in Venice in the 1750s, and were among the shortest he composed, though they were also some of the most highly decorated. It is the pacing of those decorations that is the key to successful performances, the finest harpsichordists integrating them without changing the flow. Wallisch does rush into some of those florid moments, and takes the fast scale passages with undue haste. Still I complement him on achieving period style and making this one of the most desirable discs in the series. The engineers have done their part by providing a crisp acoustic.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 11
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, seemingly, 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, while Emilia Fadini, in a complete edition for Ricordi, offers a further re-ordering, based in part on the Venice volumes.
Kirkpatrick’s listing of the sonatas, based on the chronological order of the available sources, starts with the thirty Essercizi per gravicembalo offered for sale in early 1739 by Adamo Scola, ‘Musick Master in Vine Street, near Swallow Street, Piccadilly’. The publication included a dedication in Italian to the King of Portugal and a prefatory note for the purchaser, denying serious intention and modestly suggesting rather ‘lo scherzo ingegnoso dell’Arte’. The listing continues primarily with the Venice volumes, in chronological order of compilation.
 The two-voice Sonata in B flat major, K.472/L.99/P.475, is marked Andante, and is relatively straightforward in its polyphonic structure. It is included in the eleventh Venice volume, dated 1756.
 The Sonata in B flat major, K.473/L.229/P.355, marked Allegro molto and Alla breve, forms a pair with the preceding sonata. The two works are adjacent in the eleventh Venice volume.
 The Sonata in C major, K.384/L.2/P.487, marked Cantabbile [sic] Andante, has a second voice entering in imitation of the first, taking the opening theme into the middle register. It goes on to make characteristic use of repeated notes and is paired by Kirkpatrick with K.385, which appears next to it in the eighth Venice volume of 1754.
 The Sonata in A minor, K.61/L.136/P.16, is included in the fourteenth Venice collection, the earliest of these volumes, dated 1742 and containing 61 sonatas. It has a certain rarity among the sonatas as a set of thirteen variations on a six-bar theme.
 The primary source for the Sonata in G minor, K.347/L.126/P.294, is the seventh of the Venice volumes, dating from 1754. Alla breve, it is marked Moderato è Cantabbile [sic] and is broken by pauses, succeeded by ascending chromatic scales. It ends with a hand, with a finger pointing towards the following sonata, with the instruction attacca subito and indicating, therefore, the intended pairing.
 The Sonata in G major, K.348/L.127/P.462, which follows in the seventh Venice volume is marked Prestissimo and includes a modest element of hand-crossing.
 The Sonata in D minor, K.64/L.58/P.33, appears as No.24 in the fourteenth Venice collection of 61 sonatas. Presumed to be a relatively early work, it is a Gavota, marked Allegro, and follows precisely the form of the Baroque dance.
 The Sonata in D major, K.224/L.268/P.225, with its polyphonic texture and marked Vivo, is often coupled with K.223, which precedes it in the third volume of the Venice collection, dated 1753.
 The Sonata in F minor, K.462/L.438/P.474, is marked Andante and starts with unusual figuration, making use of characteristic doubled thirds, sixths and parallel octaves.
 The Sonata in B minor, K.376/L.34/P.246, marked Allegro, is found in the eighth Venice volume, dated 1754. It is largely in two-voice texture, with the left hand entering in imitation of the right in the third bar.
 The Sonata in B minor, K.377/L.263/P.245, marked Allegrissimo, forms a pair with the preceding sonata, which it follows in the same Venice collection. The texture is again two-part and, like its companion sonata, it duly modulates to D major at the double bar.
 From the sixth Venice volume, dated 1753, comes the Sonata in G major, K.314/L.441/P.505, marked Allegro and suggested as a pair with K.315, in G minor. The second of the three voices enters in imitation of the first and there are characteristic uses of sequence and repeated phrases, with unusual figuration in the second part of the sonata.
 In 6/8 and marked Con Velocità, the Sonata in D major, K.278/L.Supp.15/P.434, is found in the fifth Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1753. It has been suggested as the second of a pair, preceded by K.277 in the same key. In both sections there is the interruption of a fermata, followed by a repeated phrase based on descending figuration.
 The primary source of the Sonata in B flat major, K.545/L.500/P.549 is the fifteenth volume of the 463 sonatas preserved in Parma, dated 1757 and described by Kirkpatrick as largely in the same hand as the Venice volumes and similarly of Spanish origin. The sonata has been paired with K.544 in the same key and is marked Prestissimo. A second voice enters in imitation of the first in a work of some brilliance, with left-hand octaves used to emphasize the bass.
 The Sonata in A minor, K.148/L.64/P.291, marked Andante and in 3/8, is paired by Kirkpatrick with the following sonata. It is the first sonata in the first Venice volume, dated 1752, and included first in the first volume of the sonatas preserved in Parma. It is relatively simple in texture and less technically demanding than some of what appear to be later works.
 The second of the pair, the Sonata in A minor, K.149/L.93/P.241, is placed second in the first Venice and Parma volumes, and suggested by Kirkpatrick as possibly intended for a fortepiano in the Spanish royal collection. In the Parma manuscript the sonata ends with the word Fin, implying the coupling of this work with the preceding sonata.
 The Sonata in C minor, K.58/L.158/P.39, the sixteenth sonata in the fourteenth and earliest Venice volume, dated 1742, is a fugue. The alto presents the descending chromatic subject, followed by a countersubject and the entries of the soprano, tenor and finally bass. The fugal texture is worked out with some freedom, making some use of augmentation and, finally, of a dominant then a tonic pedal.
 The nineteenth sonata of the ninth Venice volume, dated 1754, and of the eleventh of the Parma manuscript, the Sonata in C major, K.406/L.5/P.509 is marked Allegro and starts with a descending arpeggio. It has been paired with the sonata that follows in the manuscripts, K.407, and makes some use of a low G. Each half ends after a preliminary flourish of a rapid ascending scale.
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