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8.550252 - SCARLATTI, D.: Piano Sonatas (Selection)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757)
Selected Keyboard Sonatas

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 some four years. In 1709 he entered the service of the exiled Queen of Poland 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 was through his later appointment to the musical establishment of the Portuguese ambassador in Rome that he moved in 1719 to Lisbon. There his employment as music-master to the children of the royal family led him, with his royal pupil the Infanta Maria Barbara, to Madrid, when she married the heir to the Spanish throne in 1728. Scarlatti apparently remained there for the rest of his life, his most considerable musical achievement the composition of 555 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 Scarlatli 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. Various sets of sonatas were published during the composer's lifetime, in particular through the agency of Scarlatti's English friend Thomas Roseingrave and possibly through Farinelli’s Italian connections in London. In the present century the sonatas were edited by Alessandro Longo, hence the Longo numbers, and in 1953 by the American harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. Giorgio Pestelli has recently attempted a new listing, chiefly on stylistic grounds. Much of the revised numbering depends on conjectural pairing or grouping of sonatas.

The first thirty sonatas in Kirkpatrick's numbering (K.1-30) were published in 1738 in London, with a dedication to King John of Portugal, and sold by Adamo Scola, described as a music-master, in Vine Street, near Swallow Street, Piccadilly. Scarlatti, in his preface to the reader, promises entertainment rather than musical substance, an ingenious Jesting with Art (lo scherzo ingegnoso deII'Arte), an unduly modest disclaimer. The present selection starts with the characteristic D minor Sonata, K. 9 and includes the C minor Sonata, K. 11, both from the early London publication. A manuscript collection of thirteen volumes of sonatas now in Venice and dated 1742 provides a source for K. 87 in B minor and >K. 96 was published in Paris in an edition of variable quality before 1746. Other sonatas appear in later manuscript or published collections. There are obvious difficulties in establishing dates of composition, although contemporary publication or dated manuscript collections provide at least a terminus post quem non.

Of the remaining sonatas included here, a Spanish element appears in K.132, while K.135 has been supposed the centre of a set of three. K.141, with its repeated notes, is among the best known, and K.146 has by some been paired with an earlier G major Sonata. K. 159 opens with what sounds like a hunting-call, and K.198 is in the form of a two-voice Toccata. The charming K. 208 appears first in a collection of 1753, to which K. 247 in C Sharp minor belongs, with K. 322 and the popular K. 380. K.435 appears in a Venice manuscript collection of 1753 and K. 466, K. 474 and the F minor K. 481 are first found in a Venice collection of 1756. All the sonatas are in a musical idiom that is entirely characteristic of the composer, a language that develops to include elements that often suggest the music of Spain. The majority were probably intended for the harpsichord, although some may have been designed for the more delicate sounds of the clavichord, with its direct hammer action, for the organ, or even for the newly developing pianoforte, an instrument certainly available to Scarlatti in the royal palaces of Spain.

Balázs Szokolay
The Hungarian pianist Balázs Sozkolay was born in Budapest 1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who is a composer and professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano when he was five and in 1970 entered the preparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy, where he completed his studies with Pál Kadosa and Zoltán Kocsis in 1983 .He later spent two years at the Academy of Music in Munich, with a West German government scholarship.

Balázs Szokolay made an early international appearance with Péter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in 1979, and in 1983 substituted for Nikita Magaloff in Belgrade in a performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 of Brahms. He is now a soloist with the Hungarian State Orchestra and has given concerts in a number of countries abroad, including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987, he made his recital début at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has won a number of important prizes at home and abroad, including, most recently, in the 1987 Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians Competition.

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