SCARLATTI, D.: Piano Sonatas (Selection) (Andras Soos/ Balazs Szokolay) (Naxos: 8.550252)
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Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757)
Selected Keyboard Sonatas
Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples in 1685, sixth of the tenchildren of the composer Alessandro Scarlatti. Sicilian by birth and chiefly responsiblefor the early development of Neapolitan opera. The Scarlatti family had extensiveinvolvement in music both in Rome and in Naples, where Alessandro Scarlatti became maestrodi cappella to the Spanish viceroy in 1684. Domenico Scarlatti started his public careerin 1701 under his fathers aegis as organist and composer in the vice-regal chapel.
The following year father and son took leave of absence, to explore the possibilities ofemployment in Florence, and Alessandro was later to exercise paternal authority by sendinghis son to Venice, where he remained some four years. In 1709 he entered the service ofthe exiled Queen of Poland in Rome, there meeting and playing against Handel in a keyboardcontest, in which the latter was declared the better organist and Scarlatti the betterharpsichordist. It was through his later appointment to the musical establishment of thePortuguese ambassador in Rome that he moved in 1719 to Lisbon. There his employment asmusic-master to the children of the royal family led him, with his royal pupil the InfantaMaria Barbara, to Madrid, when she married the heir to the Spanish throne in 1728.
Scarlatti apparently remained there for the rest of his life, his most considerablemusical achievement the composition of 555 single movement sonatas or exercises, designedlargely for the use of the Infanta, who became Queen of Spain in 1746.
The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatli survive in part in anumber of eighteenth century manuscripts, some clearly from the collection of Queen MariaBarbara, possibly bequeathed to the great Italian castrato Farinelli, who was employed atthe Spanish court. Various sets of sonatas were published during the composer's lifetime,in particular through the agency of Scarlatti's English friend Thomas Roseingrave andpossibly through Farinellis Italian connections in London. In the present centurythe sonatas were edited by Alessandro Longo, hence the Longo numbers, and in 1953 by theAmerican harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. Giorgio Pestelli has recently attempted a newlisting, chiefly on stylistic grounds. Much of the revised numbering depends onconjectural pairing or grouping of sonatas.
The first thirty sonatas in Kirkpatrick's numbering (K.1-30)were published in 1738 in London, with adedication to King John of Portugal, and sold by Adamo Scola, described as a music-master,in Vine Street, near Swallow Street, Piccadilly. Scarlatti, in his preface to the reader,promises entertainment rather than musical substance, an ingenious Jesting with Art (loscherzo ingegnoso deII'Arte), an unduly modest disclaimer. The present selection startswith the characteristic D minor Sonata, K. 9
and includes the C minor Sonata, K. 11, bothfrom the early London publication. A manuscript collection of thirteen volumes of sonatasnow in Venice and dated 1742 provides a source for K.
87 in B minor and >K. 96 waspublished in Paris in an edition of variable quality before 1746. Other sonatas appear inlater manuscript or published collections. There are obvious difficulties in establishingdates of composition, although contemporary publication or dated manuscript collectionsprovide at least a terminus post quem non.
Of the remaining sonatas included here, a Spanish elementappears in K.132, while K.135 has been supposed the centre of a set ofthree. K.141, with its repeated notes, isamong the best known, and K.146 has by somebeen paired with an earlier G major Sonata. K. 159
opens with what sounds like a hunting-call, and K.198
is in the form of a two-voice Toccata. Thecharming K. 208 appears first in acollection of 1753, to which K. 247 in C Sharp minor
belongs, with K. 322 and the popular K. 380. K.435 appears in a Venice manuscriptcollection of 1753 and K. 466, K. 474 andthe F minor K. 481 are first found in aVenice collection of 1756. All the sonatas are in a musical idiom that is entirelycharacteristic of the composer, a language that develops to include elements that oftensuggest the music of Spain. The majority were probably intended for the harpsichord,although some may have been designed for the more delicate sounds of the clavichord, withits direct hammer action, for the organ, or even for the newly developing pianoforte, aninstrument certainly available to Scarlatti in the royal palaces of Spain.
The Hungarian pianist Balazs Sozkolay was born in Budapest1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who is a composer and professor atthe Ferenc Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano when he was five and in 1970entered the preparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy, where he completed hisstudies with Pal Kadosa and Zoltan Kocsis in 1983 .He later spent two years at theAcademy of Music in Munich, with a West German government scholarship.
Balazs Szokolay made an early international appearance withPeter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in 1979, and in 1983 substituted for NikitaMagaloff in Belgrade in a performance of the PianoConcerto No.1 of Brahms. He is now a soloist with the Hungarian State Orchestraand has given concerts in a number of countries abroad, including Austria, Switzerland,France, Italy, Poland, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987,he made his recital debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has won a number ofimportant prizes at home and abroad, including, most recently, in the 1987 Queen Elisabethof the Belgians Competition.