SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 4
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Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Complete Sonatas Vol. 4
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 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 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 several hundred 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 composers lifetime, including a set of thirty issued in Venice or, perhaps, 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 provided a new listing, distinguished by the letter K. Stylistic grounds have suggested a further changed listing by Giorgio Pestelli, under the letter P. All three are included for convenience of reference.
1 The Sonata in E major, K. 215 / L. 323 /
P. 281, is found in the third of the fifteen manuscript volumes of Scarlatti sonatas in Venice, dated 1753. Marked Andante, the sonata has the sudden shifts of key characteristic at times of the composer and includes a development of the material and sometimes startling acciaccaturas.
2 The Sonata in G minor, K. 4 / L. 390 / P. 60,
is first found in a collection of thirty sonatas, Essercizi per gravicembalo, perhaps first published in London in 1738. Marked Allegro, the sonata shows elements of concertante style.
3 The Sonata in F major, K. 107 / L. 474 / P. 98,
is found in the fifteenth of the Venice volumes of sonatas, dated to 1749. Again there are emphatic uses of acciaccaturas, in a work in 3/8 metre and marked Allegro.
4 The Sonata in A minor, K. 532 / L. 223 / P. 536, is first found in the thirteenth of the fifteen Venice volumes of sonatas, in this case dated 1757, and marked Allegro. It has been suggested that sonatas such as this, apparently a later work, were dictated by the composer as there are distinct references to earlier works in its runs and textures.
5 The Sonata in E flat major, K. 474 / L. 203 /
P. 502, marked Andante e cantabile, is found in the eleventh of the Venice volumes, dated 1756. The dates refer, of course, to the date of copying rather than that of composition, but do suggest an obvious terminus post quem non, if nothing else. The sonata is lyrical and generally gentle in expression, making use of characteristic ornamentation and intervals.
6 There is an immediate contrast in the Sonata in
D minor, K. 516 / L. S12 / P. 523, marked Allegretto and found in the 1757 thirteenth volume of the Venice collection. The sonata provides an immediate contrast in the strongly marked ornamentation of the opening, with its contrapuntal response, and its modulations and sudden pauses.
7 The Sonata in C minor, K. 175 / L. 429 /
P. 136, is included in the first of the Venice volumes, dated 1752. It is remarkable in its use of chords, sometimes with ten notes, not all of them part of orthodox harmonic practice. As so often there is great use of crush-notes, the simultaneously struck acciaccaturas that are a regular element in Scarlattis keyboard vocabulary.
8 The Sonata in C major, K. 132 / L. 457 /
P. 295, marked Cantabile, is included in the fifteenth of the Venice volumes, dated 1749. Free in form, there is room for the introduction of varied melodic material, with relatively distant modulations.
9 From the 1757 thirteenth Venice volume comes the Sonata in F minor, K . 519 / L. 475 / P. 445, marked Allegro assai and one of the most familiar of all, characterized by its energetic use of octaves.
0 The Sonata in B major, K. 262 / L. 446 / P. 301, marked Vivo, is included in the fourth of the Venice volumes of the Spanish royal collection, dated 1753.
It has been described as a kind of tarantella, in its energetic 12/8 metre.
! The Sonata in C minor, K. 99 / L. 317 / P. 135,
is found in the fifteenth of the Venice volumes, dated 1749, although there it is given together with the Sonata in C major, K. 100, as part of the same work, with an instruction to turn the page quickly, volti subito, after the first of the two. The two sonatas are also paired by Ralph Kirkpatrick, but not by Pestelli. The first of the two sonatas offers a pleasingly tranquil contrast with the sonata placed before it in the present release.
@ From the tenth Venice volume of 1755 comes the Sonata in D major, K. 443 / L. 418 / P. 376, marked Allegro. With a Spanish dance rhythm, the sonata is characterized by melodic figures that include the rapidly repeated notes found in writing for plucked string instruments.
# The Sonata in C minor, K. 158 / L. 4 / P. 123, marked Andante, is included in the 1752 first Venice volume. It is in free form and transparent in its largely two-part texture, which becomes more complex as the work proceeds.
$ The Sonata in E major, K. 403 / L. 470 / P. 437, marked Allegro, is included in the ninth Venice volume, dated 1754. The sonata starts with an ascending arpeggio figure that makes use of the apparently wider keyboard range available to Scarlatti in his later work.
% Polyphonic in its texture, as one part enters in imitation of the other, the Sonata in B flat major,
K. 550 / L. S42 / P. 554, with the tempo indication Allegretto, is included in the 1757 fifteenth volume of the Spanish Parma collection of 463 sonatas.
^ The Sonata in G major, K. 470 / L. 304 /
P. 379, an Allegro, included in the 1756 eleventh Venice volume, has elements of a toccata, while also making use of Spanish dance rhythms within an otherwise varied texture.