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8.573708 - SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 17 (Kennard)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 17


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, derived in part from 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 D major, K.400/L.213/P.228, is included in the ninth volume of the sonatas preserved in Venice, dated 1754. Marked Allegro, it is propelled forward by the opening lively rhythmic figures, while the central section finds room for wider harmonic exploration. Both halves of the sonata are duly repeated.

[2] The Sonata in G major, K374/L76/P.472, marked Andante, draws impetus from the opening rhythmic figure. It is included in the seventh Venice volume of 1754.

[3] The Sonata in G major, K.372/L302/P.402, included in the same Venice volume, is marked Allegro and includes antiphonal writing, as the lower register answers the upper.

[4] A further Sonata in G major, K.325/L.37/P.451, ends the sixth Venice volume of 1753. It is headed by the less usual direction Con velocità and offers a brilliant display of scale passages.

[5] The Sonata in G major, K.521/L.408/P.492, is preserved in the thirteenth Venice volume of 1757. Marked Allegro, each half of the sonata includes a brief digression into a minor key, before taking its way once more.

[6] The Sonata in G major, K.477/L.290/P.419 is found in the eleventh Venice volume, dated 1756. It is marked Allegrissimo and has a contrasting central section in the minor, the whole propelled forward by lively arpeggio figuration.

[7] The Sonata in C major, K.527/L.458/P.531, appears in the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757. Marked Allegro assai , it reveals yet again the remarkable variety of Scarlatti’s musical imagination, within the bounds of his chosen form.

[8] The Sonata in F major, K.355/L.Supp.22/P.344, marked Allegro, is included in the seventh Venice volume of 1754. The melody is in the upper part throughout.

[9] The Sonata in F major, K.468/L.226/P.507, an Allegro, is preserved in the eleventh Venice volume, dated 1756. It opens with a descending scale figure, the source of the sonata, with passages of syncopation and pauses in each half before the final bars.

[10] The Sonata in F major, K.445/L.385/P.468, marked Allegro, o presto, is found in the tenth Venice volume, dated 1755. With rapid figuration and interest shared by right and left hands, the sonata is in the style of a toccata.

[11] The Sonata in F minor, K.386/L.171/P.137, is included in the tenth Venice volume, dated 1754, and is again in toccata style, marked Presto, with passages of chromatic scales.

[12] From the thirteenth Venice volume, dated 1757, comes the Sonata in F major, K.543/L.227/P.547, marked Allegro, one of the final group of sonatas in the Venice albums. In 6/8 it makes considerable use of trills and scale passages.

[13] The Sonata in B flat major, K.311/L.144/P.227, is found in the sixth Venice volume of thirty sonatas, dated 1753. Marked Allegro, the sonata has its principal melodic interest in the upper part.

[14] The primary source of the Sonata in A major, K.342/L.191/P.341, is the seventh Venice volume, dated 1754. Marked Allegro, it is in two voices, with melodic interest in the upper part.

[15] The Sonata in D major, K.512/L.339/P.359, marked Allegro, a rapid toccata, is included in the twelfth Venice volume, dated 1756.

[16] The Sonata in D major, K.490/L.206/P.476, is also found in the twelfth Venice volume and is marked Cantabile. The dramatic chords suggest Spanish influence.

[17] The Sonata in F major, K.506/L.70/P.409, is another sonata from the twelfth Venice volume. It has the tempo direction of Allegro and is in 3/8. It is in the style of a toccata.

[19] The present recording ends with the Sonata in F major, K.418/L26/P.510, which opens the tenth Venice volume, dated 1755, and is again an Allegro. It is in the style of a toccata, the rapid flow of quaver figuration occasionally interrupted by passages of alternating notes, the whole a further example of Scarlatti’s genius for variety, couched always in his own recognisable musical language.

Keith Anderson

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