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8.573611 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 18 (Monteiro)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 18


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, if not necessarily of composition.

[1] The Sonata in A minor, K.341/L.140/P.103, is included in the seventh volume of the sonatas preserved in Venice, dated 1754. Marked Allegro, it it is impelled forward by the opening rhythm. The repeated first half modulates from A minor to C major, with the original key restored as the repeated second half of the sonata progresses.

[2] The Sonata in C major, K347/L.Supp.45/P.270, marked Allegro, is included among the copies of Scarlatti’s sonatas preserved in Parma, many of them in the same hand as the Venice volumes. The sonata is also preserved in manuscripts in Münster and, fragmentarily, in Vienna. A work of particular brilliance, it explores an unusually wide range of the keyboard, with its lower and high G, its flow broken by frequent dramatic pauses.

[3] The Sonata in A major, K.369/L240/P.259, is preserved in the eighth of the Venice volumes, dated 1754. It is a work of particular brilliance.

[4] The Sonata in B flat major, K.392/L.246/P.371, is included in the ninth Venice collection, dated to 1754, and is marked Allegro. It opens with the descending notes of the tonic chord and continues with repeated notes and phrases, with an excursion into contrary motion between left and right hand at the start of the second section.

[5] The primary source for the Sonata in D major, K.401/L.365/P.436, is found in the ninth Venice volume of 1754. Marked Allegro and in 6/8, it modulates through various keys, as it is propelled forward by virtual perpetual motion.

[6] The Sonata in D major, K.414/L.310/P.373, is from the same Venice volume, an alla breve marked Allegro. One voice imitates another, starting a piece in the style of a toccata, but coloured by spread Spanish chords in the central section, which opens the repeated second half.

[7] The Sonata in G major, K.433/L.453/P.453, appears in the tenth Venice volume, dated 1755. Marked Vivo , it is in 6/8, with the rhythm of a gigue broken by elaborate scale passages.

[8] The Sonata in A major, K.452, marked Andante Allegro, is not included in the Venice or Parma volumes, but is found among the sonatas collected by the early nineteenth-century scholar, the Abbé Fortunato Santini, and preserved in Münster. The sonata is dominated by the pervasive opening rhythmic motif.

[9] The primary source of the Sonata in D minor, K459/L.Supp.14/P.167, is the eleventh Venice volume of 1756. It starts with a passage in D minor, marked Allegro, interrupted by a rapid Presto in D major, modulating to the dominant. The same contrast is found in the second half of the sonata, the elegiac followed by the brighter rapidity of the major key.

[10] The Sonata in G major, K.471/L.82/P.327, is found in the same Venice volume, with the title Minuet. It is less regular in rhythm than its title might imply and calls for some hand-crossing.

[11] The Sonata in G major, K.493/L.Supp.24/P.383, is included in the twelfth Venice volume, dated 1756. Marked Allegro, it is polyphonic in character.

[12] Also from the twelfth Venice volume comes the Sonata in B flat major, K.504/L.29/P.448, marked Allegro and in 3/8, a rapid study in velocity.

[13] The Sonata in D minor, K.510/L.277/P.454, is also found in the twelfth Venice volume of thirty sonatas. Marked Allegro, the sonata is polyphonic in character, with a shift to the major at the beginning of the second half and for the final section.

[14] The primary source of the Sonata in F major, K.518/L.116/P.390, is the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757. Marked Allegro, it brings various modulations and, in the second half, chords that suggest the idiom of the guitar.

[15] The Sonata in G major, K.522/L.Supp.25/P.526, marked Allegro, is included in the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757, the year of Scarlatti’s death. Polyphonic in character, it opens with a descending scale, imitated in a lower part.

[16] The Sonata in F major, K.540/L.Supp.17/P.544, is also from the thirteenth Venice volume. It is marked Allegretto and is polyphonic, with occasional wide leaps in the left hand.

[17] The Sonata in B flat major, K.551/L.396/P.555, found in the fifteenth and last of the volumes, preserved in Parma, and provides a brilliant ending to the present recording of sonatas seemingly largely from Scarlatti’s maturity. An Allegro, it starts with a subject in the right hand, imitated by the left, but soon moves forward to other material in writing that calls for wide leaps, with characteristic chords and syncopation before the ending.

Keith Anderson

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