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8.573288 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 16 (Duanduan Hao)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 16


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.280/L.237/P.395, is included in the fifth volume of the sonatas preserved in Venice, dated 1753. Marked Allegro, it starts with a lively figure in the right hand, immediately imitated in the left, but continuing with right-hand chords leading to a final F minor, before the first section is repeated. The chordal passage continues, leading at the last moment to A major once more, after which the second half of the movement is repeated.

[2] The Sonata in D minor, K417/L.462/P.40, marked Allegro moderato, is a fugue. The subject, heard first in the tenor register, is a version of the descending scale, answered a fifth higher, followed by the entry of a third voice. Further episodes occur, with the easily recognisable subject heard in a series of varied entries. It is included in the ninth Venice volume of 1754.

[3] The Sonata in B flat major, K.440/L.97/P.328, is a Minuet, its two sections repeated. It is included in the tenth Venice volume of 1755.

[4] The Sonata in D major, K.511/L.314/P.388, is included in the twelfth Venice collection, dated to 1756, and is marked Allegro. As it proceeds it moves to a passage of modulation, exploring remoter keys, and continuing into the second part of the sonata.

[5] The primary source for the Sonata in C major, K.200/L.54/P.242, is the second of the Venice volumes, dated 1752. It is marked Allegro and after the opening passage moves forward into modulations that reach their destination of G major, as the repeated first section comes to an end, duly returning to the original key in the second part of the sonata.

[6] The Sonata in F minor, K.467/L.476/P.513, is found in the eleventh Venice volume, dated 1756. It is marked Allegrissimo and is full of those short repetitions that are a frequent element in Scarlatti’s style of writing.

[7] The Sonata in C major, K.231/L.409/P.393, appears in the third Venice volume, dated 1753. Marked Allegro , it is characterized by a short rhythmic figure often repeated.

[8] The Sonata in B flat major, K.488/L.Supp.37/P.382, marked Allegro, is included in the twelfth Venice volume of 1756. The lower second voice enters in imitation of the first at the beginning of the sonata and the opening motif returns in an unusual key to open the second half of the sonata.

[9] The Sonata in F major, K.541/L.120/P.545, an Allegretto in 6/8, is preserved in the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757. The flow of the second part of the sonata is suddenly interrupted on three occasions by silent bars, after which due modulation proceeds.

[10] The Sonata in D major, K.336/L.337/P.262, marked Allegro, is found in the seventh Venice volume, dated 1754. It starts with a descending figure, and in its second section explores dramatic minor keys.

[11] The Sonata in G major, K.390/L.234/P.348, is included in the ninth Venice volume, dated 1754. The second part enters in imitation of the first in a sonata that explores a full range of the keyboard.

[12] From the sixth Venice volume, dated 1753, comes the Sonata in C major, K.308/L.359/P.318, marked Cantabile. Relatively simple in structure, the melodic interest is principally in the right hand throughout.

[13] The Sonata in D major, K.118/L.122/P.266, is found in the fifteenth Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1749. Marked Non presto, the sonata involves hand-crossing and has a number of passages of trills.

[14] The primary source of the Sonata in B flat major, K.528/L.200/P.532, is the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757. Marked Allegro, it again brings passages of handcrossing and makes continuing use of figures of descending octaves.

[15] The Sonata in G major, K.260/L.124/P.304, marked Allegro, is included in the fourth Venice volume, dated 1753. It is a work of almost perpetual motion and includes a number of changes of key signature.

[16] The Sonata in D major, K.458/L.212/P.260, is found in the eleventh Venice volume, dated 1756, and is marked Allegro. It is characterized by a use of pedal-point.

[17] The Sonata in C minor, K.362/L.156/P.159, found in the eighth of the Venice volumes, dated 1754, has the tempo direction of Allegro. There is continued motion throughout the sonata.

[18] The present recording ends with the Sonata in C major, K.133/L.282/P.218, which is included in the fifteenth Venice volume, dated 1749, and is again an Allegro. It includes modulation to remoter keys, use of chromatic notes and passages in octaves in a work that typifies the variety Scarlatti achieves, while retaining always his own characteristic musical language.

Keith Anderson

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