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8.570745 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 12 (Struhal)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 12


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 in order of date.

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.

[1] The Sonata in E flat major, K.193 /L.142/P.254, is marked Allegro, and is found in the second Venice volume of 1752. There is something of Spain in the harmonies introduced.

[2] The Sonata in A major, K.368/L.S.30 /P.506, again marked Allegro, is found in the eighth Venice volume of 1754. The sonata has modulations that move far from the original key in a texture that keeps the melody largely in the right hand throughout. It is listed in the Supplement to Longo’s edition.

[3] The Sonata in D major, K.335/ L.S.10 /P.339, is included in the seventh Venice collection, dated 1754. Marked Allegro, it keeps melodic interest largely in the right hand, after the left-hand entry in imitation of the right.

[4] The Sonata in F minor, K.387/L.175/P.415, is found in the eighth Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1754.Marked Veloce e fugato, it brings wide leaps, the closing bars of each half strengthened by left-hand octaves.

[5] From the first Venice volume, dated 1752, comes the Sonata in F major, K.151/L.330/P.238, marked Andante- Allegro. The piece includes some interesting shifts of harmony, with its recurrent sequences.

[6] The Sonata in G major, K.547/L.S.28/P.551, marked Allegro and in duple metre, is found in the last of the fifteen volumes of sonatas preserved in Parma and in Longo’s Supplement, but not in the Venice volumes, which end with K.541 in Kirkpatrick’s listing.

[7] The relatively simple Sonata in A major, K.323/L.95/P.411, is found in the sixth Venice volume of 1753. It is one of those sonatas that is largely in perpetual motion and is in 6/8.

[8] The Sonata in C major, K.309/L.454/P.333, an alla breve, Allegro, is included in the sixth Venice volume, dated 1753. The final bars of each half of the sonata make use of syncopation.

[9] The Sonata in F minor, K.185/L.173/P.121, is unusual in that the main theme is in the bass. It is marked Andante and is in the same key as K. 183-187, leading some to suggest that these five sonatas might have formed a suite.

[10] The Sonata in F minor, K.186 /L.72 /P.46, marked Allegro, like the other five sonatas, K.183-187, is included in the second Venice volume of 1752, where they succeed one another, adding to the supposition that they may have formed a suite.

[11] The Sonata in E major, K.163/L.63/P.206, marked Allegro, is found in the first Venice volume of 1752. In 3/8 it is clear in texture, with the repeated phrases characteristic of Scarlatti’s style of keyboard writing.

[12] The Sonata in G major, K.425/L.333/P.426, is also from the tenth volume, and is marked Allegro molto. Clear in texture, each half of the sonata is divided by a bar’s rest with a fermata, heralding a change of key.

[13] The Sonata in G minor, K.426/L.128/P.128, is found in the tenth Venice volume of 1755. It is marked Andante and is punctuated by rests, after which the music resumes in another key.

[14] The Sonata in G minor, K.93/L.336/P.38, is found in the fourteenth Venice volume, dated 1742, and is a four-voice Fugue, ending over a dominant pedal. It is one of five such fugues listed by Kirkpatrick.

[15] The Sonata in C major, K.330/L.55/P.222, is included in the seventh Venice volume of 1754. Marked Allegro, it starts with a theme that is imitated in the left hand.

[16] Included in the fourth Venice volume of 1753, the Sonata in F major, K.257/L.169/P.138, marked Allegro and in 2/4, is in the manner of a toccata, making considerable use of broken octaves in the left hand in a structure that offers a characteristic use of sequences. The sonata is yet one more of example of the variety that Scarlatti was able to ensure within the limitations of his chosen form.

[17] The Sonata in E major, K.381/L.225/P.327, marked Allegro, is in 3/8, its primary source found in the eighth of the Venice volumes, dated 1754. The sonata seems, in its second section, to suggest the style of the coming generation, embraced by the sons of Johann Sebastian Bach.

[18] The primary source of the Sonata in G major, K.241/L.180 /P.431, is included in the fourth Venice volume of 1753. Marked Allegro and in 3/8, it maintains virtually perpetual motion throughout, with a full use made of characteristic sequences.

[19] The Sonata in F major, K.469/L.431/P.514, marked Allegro molto, is in a kind of perpetual motion, with relatively simple texture and modulations into the minor in the second half. It is taken from the eleventh Venice volume of 1756.

Keith Anderson

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