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8.572586 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 14 (Duanduan Hao)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 14


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 B flat major, K.47/L.46 /P.115, is marked Presto, and includes rapid scales, as well as a considerable amount of hand-crossing. It is included in the fourteenth Venice volume, dated 1742.

[2] The Sonata in D major, K.21/L.363 /P.77, marked Allegro, is one of those sonatas included among the thirty Essercizi per gravicembalo advertised in London in 1739. It makes use of sequences and hand-crossing.

[3] The Sonata in G minor, K.102/L.89 /P.88, marked Allegro, is relatively undemanding, its two sections symmetrically balanced. It is included in the fifteenth Venice volume, dated 1749.

[4] The asymmetrical Sonata in A major, K.62/L.45/P.49, is included in the fourteenth Venice collection, and is marked Allegro. The opening of the two sections differs in figuration, but both end with a similar flourish of hemidemisemiquavers.

[5] The primary source for the Sonata in C major, K.242/L.202/P.243, is the fourth of the Venice volumes, dated 1753. It is marked Vivo and opens, as so often, with partial canonic imitation, with the entry of the second voice.

[6] The Sonata in G major, K.171/L.77/P.153, is found in the first Venice volume, dated 1752. It is marked Allegro and is dominated by a rhythmic figure that appears in the right hand in the third bar.

[7] The Sonata in D minor, K.295/L.270/P.211, appears in the fifth Venice volume, dated 1753. Marked Allegro and in 3/8, the sonata makes use of a drone bass.

[8] The Sonata in A major, K.269/L.307/P.432, marked Allegro, is the fourth of the thirty sonatas included in the fifth Venice volume. It includes a variety of modulations and moves into the key of A minor to start the second section, with further shifts of key before returning to the original A major.

[9] The Sonata in E major, K.162/L.21/P.162, is less usual in structure, with an opening section marked Andante, followed by an Allegro which continues into the second half of the sonata, before the return of the Andante, now in E minor, and a final Allegro. The sonata is included in the first Venice volume, dated 1752.

[10] The Sonata in A minor, K.217/L.42/P.287, marked Andante, is found in the third Venice volume, dated 1753. It starts with relatively elaborate figuration and goes on, with hand-crossing, to use a wide range of the keyboard.

[11] The Sonata in G major, K.337/L.S.26/P.340, is marked Allegro and included in the seventh Venice volume, dated 1754. It alternates solo sections with fuller chordal passages, starting the second section with scale figuration in thirds.

[12] From the fourth Venice volume, dated 1753, comes the Sonata in C minor, K.254/L.219/P.254, marked Allegro and Alla breve. The piece makes considerable use of canonic imitation at the octave and passages of dotted rhythm in the lower part, often in contrary motion with the upper part.

[13] The Sonata in B flat major, K.155/L.197/P.208, is found in the first Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1752. It includes a number of scale passages, with the lower part doubling the upper at the octave.

[14] The primary source of the Sonata in C major, K.199/L.253/P.276 is the second Venice volume of 1752. Marked Andante moderato and in 12/8, it retains the principal melodic interest in the upper part, as so often, with a largely repetitive rhythmic pattern.

[15] The Sonata in D major, K.140/L.107/P.127, marked Allegro, is included in the second Venice volume, dated 1752, and is also found in a slightlier earlier collection of 44 sonatas, copied for Sebastian Albero, an organist in the Spanish Royal Chapel, and dated to 1749, with the tempo direction Allegro non molto. The figuration often suggests horn calls and fanfares, and includes chains of thirds and sixths in the right hand.

[16] The Sonata in B flat major, K.229/L.199/P.139, is found in the third Venice volume, dated 1753, and is marked Allegro vivo. The sonata includes rapid ascending scales, one hand following the other.

[17] The present programme of sonatas ends with the Sonata in D major, K.282/L.484/P.166, found in the fifth of the Venice volumes, dated 1753. The piece is unusual in structure. The first section, an Allegro, is interrupted by a pause, followed by a passage that is markedly different in figuration and modulates through a related minor key. A further pause is followed by a third section in the dominant, that is to be reflected in the final part of the sonata, but only after a D minor Andante. Like his near contemporary Vivaldi in his concertos, Scarlatti was able to provide a wealth of variety within the form of the sonata that he had made his own. Of this the Sonata, K. 282, is an outstanding example.

Keith Anderson

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