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8.572107 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 13 (Chu-Fang Huang)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 13


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.

[1] The Sonata in A major, K.65/L.195/P.142, is marked Allegro, and opens with the descending tonic arpeggio, with a second half starting with the dominant arpeggio ascending. The sonata includes hand-crossing and is included in the fourteenth Venice volume, dated 1742.

[2] The Sonata in D major, K.160/L.15/P.131, marked Allegro, is one of those sonatas in which Scarlatti interrupts the piece with pauses, introducing here minor key passages in contrast with the surrounding material.

[3] The asymmetric two-voice Sonata in G major, K.125/L.487/P.152, marked Vivo, has patterns of repeated notes and includes excursions into minor keys at the beginning of the second half of the work. It appears in the fifteenth Venice volume of 1749.

[4] The Sonata in E minor, K.232/L.62/P.317, is included in the third Venice collection, dated 1753 and containing thirty sonatas. Marked Andante, it includes typical unprepared modulations and elements of syncopation.

[5] The primary source for the Sonata in D major, K.416/L.149/P.454, is the ninth of the Venice volumes, dating from 1754. It is marked Presto and in the style of a toccata, based on rapid descending scales with a contrasting central section varied in key and figuration.

[6] The Sonata in G major, K.71/L.81/P.17, is found in the fourteenth Venice volume of 1742. It is marked Allegro and is thought by Giorgio Pestelli to have been written early in Scarlatti’s career, either in Venice or Rome. In the style of a toccata it opens with imitative writing, with the left hand echoing the right.

[7] The Sonata in D major, K.164/L.59/P.274, appears in the first Venice volume, dated 1752. With the direction Andante moderato, the sonata is relatively simple, making no great demands on a performer, with the melody in the right hand and accompaniment in the left throughout. It is based on a repeated rhythmic figure, a triplet followed by two crotchets.

[8] The Sonata in G minor, K.35/L.386/P.20, marked Allegro, is among the presumably earlier sonatas published by Roseingrave in London in 1739. It is in the style of a toccata.

[9] The Sonata in D major, K.534/L.11/P.538, is marked Alla breve and Cantabbile (sic). Its primary source is the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757. The sonata is in the style of an aria but with an imitative rhythmic interplay between left and right hand and considerable ornamentation.

[10] The Sonata in C minor, K.22/L.360/P.78, marked Allegro, is found in the collection published, seemingly, in London in 1738. The sonata is characterized by handcrossing and wide leaps.

[11] The Sonata in F major, K.205/L.S.23/P.171, marked Vivo and Alla breve, is in 12/8, its primary source found in the fourth of the fifteen volumes preserved in Parma, containing 463 sonatas, and largely copied in the same hand as the Venice volumes. The fourth Parma volume is dated 1752.

[12] From the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757, comes the Sonata in B flat major, K.529/L.327/P.533, marked Allegro. The piece includes an amount of hand-crossing, makes a sudden shift of key for the opening of the second section and uses a relatively wide range of the keyboard.

[13] The Sonata in D major, K.491/L.164/P.484, is found in the twelfth Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1756. It starts with three ornamented notes in the right hand followed by an imitative entry in the left, and proceeds to a seguidilla folk-dance rhythm. There is a sudden pause before a shift of key, a procedure repeated in the second half of a sonata of particular brilliance.

[14] The primary source of the Sonata in B minor, K.197/L.147/P.124 is included in the second Venice volume of 1752. Marked Andante, it calls for wide leaps and modulates into remoter keys.

[15] The Sonata in E major, K.28/L.373/P.84, marked Presto and in 3/8, is included in the Essercizi per gravicembalo published in London. A piece of some brilliance, it also calls for hand-crossing.

[16] The Sonata in C minor, K.363/L.160/P.104, is found in the eighth Venice volume, dated 1754, and is marked Presto. In almost perpetual motion the sonata includes syncopations characteristic of Spanish dance and sudden modulations.

Keith Anderson

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