Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 6
Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples in 1685, sixth of theten children of the composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Sicilian by birth andchiefly responsible for the early development of Neapolitan opera. TheScarlatti family had extensive involvement in music both in Rome and in Naples,where Alessandro Scarlatti became maestro di cappella to the Spanish viceroy in1684. Domenico Scarlatti started his public career in 1701 under his father'saegis as organist and composer in the vice-regal chapel. The following yearfather and son took leave of absence to explore the possibilities of employmentin Florence, and Alessandro was later to exercise paternal authority by sendinghis son to Venice, where he remained for some four years. In 1709 Domenicoentered the service of the exiled Queen of Poland, Maria Casimira, in Rome,there meeting and playing against Handel in a keyboard contest, in which thelatter was declared the better organist and Scarlatti the betterharpsichordist. It has been suggested that he spent a period from 1719 inPalermo, but his earlier connection with the Portuguese embassy in Rome led himbefore long to Lisbon, where he became music-master to the children of theroyal family. This employment took him in 1728 to Madrid, when his pupil the InfantaMaria Barbara married the heir to the Spanish throne. Scarlatti apparentlyremained there for the rest of his life, his most considerable achievement thecomposition of some hundreds of single-movement sonatas or exercises, designedlargely for the use of the Infanta, who became Queen of Spain in 1746.
The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti survive in partin a number of eighteenth century manuscripts, some clearly from the collectionof Queen Maria Barbara, possibly bequeathed to the great Italian castratoFarinelli, who was employed at the Spanish court, and now in Venice. Varioussets of sonatas were published during the composer's lifetime, including a setof thirty issued in Venice or, perhaps, in London in 1738, and 42 published inLondon by Thomas Roseingrave in 1739, including the thirty already availablefrom the earlier publication. In more recent times the sonatas were edited byAlessandro Longo, who provided the numerical listing under L, and in 1953 theAmerican harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick provided a new listing, distinguishedby the letter K. Stylistic grounds have suggested a further changed listing byGiorgio Pestelli, under the letter P.
 The Sonata in E major, K.135/L.224/P.234, seemingly oneof a set of three, is found in the second of the fifteen manuscript volumes ofScarlatti sonatas in Parma, dated 1752. Marked Allegro, the sonata is a livelywork, with a characteristic opening figure, a descending arpeggio.
 The Sonata in A major, K.429/L.132/P.132, is found inthe tenth of the fifteen Venice volumes, dated 1755. This is a gently liltingand lyrical sonata.
 The Sonata in D major, K.478/L.12/P.503, is markedAndante e cantabile. It uses a wide range of the keyboard and slowly unwinds,its progress interrupted by a characteristic descending figure in the bass. Itis found in the eleventh of the Venice volumes of sonatas, dated to 1756.
 The Sonata in G major, K.169/L.331/P.247, is based onthe rhythm of a Spanish tango. Marked Allegro con spirito, it is found in thefirst volume of the Venice collection, dated 1752, and has modulations toremoter keys.
 The Sonata in G major, K.259/L.103/P.463, markedAndante, is found in the fourth of the Venice volumes, dated 1753. The datesrefer, of course, to the date of copying rather than those of composition, butdo suggest an obvious terminus post quem non, if nothing else. The sonata openswith a theme that is treated in imitation. There is an unprepared shift of key,as the work takes its gently lyrical course.
 The Sonata in C major, K.502/L.3/P.408, marked Allegro,is found in the twelfth volume of the Venice collection, dated to 1756. In 3/8metre it opens with a lively theme, briefly moving to G minor, before dottedfiguration, including, unusually, dotted rests, brings the key of G major andthe close of the repeated first half of the sonata. The second half brings ashort passage written in 2/4, before the return of the original metre.
 The Sonata in F major, K.419/L.279/P.524, marked Pi??tosto presto che allegro, is found in the tenth of the Venice volumes, dated1755. It is concertante in style and lyrical in mood.
 The Sonata in F minor, K.19/L.383/P.75, is first foundin the set of thirty Essercizi published in London in 1738. In 2/4 metre andmarked Allegro, it calls for crossing of hands and is in concertante style.
 From the fifteenth Venice volume of 1749 comes theSonata in B flat major, K.112/L.298/P.94, marked Allegro. Again calling forcrossed hands, it is monothematic and makes much use of the opening rhythmicfigure.
 The Sonata in E flat major, K.123/L.111/P.180, markedAllegro and Alla breve, is included in the fifteenth of the Venice volumes ofthe Spanish royal collection. It opens with a solidly descending arpeggiopattern.
 The Sonata in F major, K.274/L.297/P.491, is preservedin the fifth of the Venice volumes, dated 1753. It is marked Andante and inAlla breve metre, and is polyphonic in character, as is apparent from theopening imitation.
 From the ninth Venice volume of 1754 comes the Sonatain A major, K.405/L.43/P.438, marked Allegro and in 6/8. It seems to take itsmetrical inspiration from a dance movement, a tarantella or Spanish buleria.
 The Sonata in F sharp major, K.318/L.31/P.302, ismarked Andante and in Alla breve 2/2 metre. The choice of key is unusual,established in the descending scale with which the sonata opens. The six sharpsand the further accidentals needed in modulation to nearer keys opens questionsas to the method of tuning that Scarlatti used, although some difficulties areavoided by modulation to remoter and more 'normal' keys. The sonata is found inthe sixth Venice volume, dated 1753.
 The Sonata in F sharp minor, K.67/L.32/P.125, markedAllegro, is included in the fourteenth Venice volume, dated 1742. It is a pieceof rapid virtuosity, based on a motif derived from the chord with which itopens.
 The Sonata in C sharp minor, K.247/L.256/P.297, markedAllegro, and in 3/8 metre, is included in the 1753 fourth of the Venicevolumes. It lends itself to a slower, gently lyrical treatment, as it modulatesto remoter keys.
 The Sonata in G major, K.63/L.84/P.32, markedCapriccio, Allegro, is included in the 1742 fourteenth of the Venice volumes.Ralph Kirkpatrick has drawn attention to the similarity between this sonata anda sonata by Adolf Hasse, a pupil of Alessandro Scarlatti, and distinguished asa composer of opera, published in London in 1740. He has also suggested anaffinity here with Handel.