Alessandro Scarlatti

Pietro Alessandro Gaspare Scarlatti ( born May 2, 1660 Sicily ( either in Trapani or Palermo), † October 24, 1725 in Naples) was an Italian composer of the Baroque with a varied oeuvre and an innovator of Baroque music. He was the father of nine sons, among which also became known as a composer Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.

  • 2.1 operas
  • 2.2 oratorios
  • 2.3 cantatas
  • 2.4 Church Music
  • 2.5 Instrumental Works
  • 2.6 List of Works (selection)


Alessandro Scarlatti comes from a family of musicians and was the eldest son of the singer Pietro Scarlata ( so the original form of the family name ) and Eleonora d' Amato. 1672 the family moved to Rome, where Alessandro then received lessons in composition teaching; Giacomo Carissimi was possibly his teacher, but there is no evidence for this. Alessandro's brother Francesco (1666-1741) also worked as a composer.

Kapellmeister in Rome, Naples and Florence

1678 Scarlatti was given the post of Kapellmeister Church in Rome and married on April 12 of that year, Antonia Anzaleone. The following year he led the Palazzo Bernini, where he lived and was supported by the sons of Gianlorenzo Bernini, his first opera, Gli Equivoci nel sembiante, which was quickly replayed in many theaters. The success made ​​the living in exile in Rome Queen Christina of Sweden on the young composer's attention, and she appointed him to be their conductor. Scarlatti was particularly as a composer of solo cantatas in no time favorite of the Roman aristocracy and maintained close relations with the noble families of Bernini, Colonna, Panfili, Ottoboni and Ruspoli.

1683 he received his first official position as Kapellmeister at the church of San Girolamo della Carita. Probably the mediation of Marchese di Carpio, the Spanish ambassador to the Vatican, which was appointed in January 1683 to the Viceroy of Naples, Scarlatti was in Naples his new opera La Psyche at the Teatro San Bartolomeo perform in the Carnival season 1683/84. In 1684 he became conductor of the viceregal court chapel ( Cappella Reale) and maintained this position - with a brief interruption from January to March 1688 -. Up to the year 1703 in 1689 he was shortly teacher at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto in Naples, otherwise seems only to have been educationally active in his last years. For his patron Pietro Ottoboni, the younger he composed to the libretto of the opera La Statira. In 1690 it came under him in the reopened Roman Teatro Tordinona the premiere of La Statira.

In June 1702 Scarlatti took a four-month vacation and went to Florence at the court of Cosimo III. de ' Medici (1642/1670-1723), Grand Duke of Tuscany, the private opera performances held annually during the summer months at his country estate in Pratolino. Scarlatti was able to perform a new version of its Flavio Cuniberto, but did not get the hoped-for permanent employment. In December, he met again late in Naples and came early in the new year back as head of the Cappella Reale.

Sacred Music in Rome

From April 1703 to 1708 he lived mainly in Rome. There were since 1698 by a decree of Pope Innocent XII. all theater and opera prohibited. 1701 confirmed Clement XI. this prohibition and lifted it until 1710 again. Apart from a few operas he wrote 1703-1706 for private performances by Cosimo de ' Medici, was devoted to Scarlatti in Rome, especially of sacred music; most of his oratorios was written during this time. Scarlatti also worked for the Oratory of the Most Holy Crucifix. On April 26, 1706, he was together with Bernardo Pasquini and Arcangelo Corelli under the pseudonym " Terpandro Politeio " included in the " Academy of the Arcadia " which was dedicated to the spirit of ancient times, the revival and maintenance of an idyllic pastoral poetry. The members of the circle formed by Scarlatti astonished his talent for improvisation in densities and composition of solo cantatas. In May 1707 has also been appointed Kapellmeister at the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, where he had been auxiliary conductor 1703 since 31 December.

Operas in Venice, Naples and Rome

In Carnival 1707 Scarlatti tried with two new operas ( Mitridate Eupatore and Il trionfo della libertà ) to conquer the Venetian audience. Instead of the usual three-act libretto with their intrigues rich actions him the poet Girolamo Frigimelica - Roberti had written two five-act dramas strictly according to the pattern of the classical French tragedy. Both attempt to ensure that the level of Italian, and especially Venetian opera to raise, however, met with little enthusiasm. The performances took place at the Teatro Grimani.

After the end of Spanish rule in Naples Scarlatti was appointed on December 1, 1708 by the Austrian viceroy, Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani ( 1652-1710 ), again became the conductor of the Cappella Reale. In January 1709 then lists in Naples his new opera Teodosio. His second term is particularly characterized by a series splendid, elaborately equipped opera productions at the Teatro San Bartolomeo, of which Tigrane had particular success and the late work Griselda (1721 ) found special recognition by posterity. In 1710 he began to study with the up therefore neglected instrumental music and gave 1715 12 Symphony concerto grosso di out.

From 1717 to 1722 Scarlatti held back on mainly in Rome. As is evident from the dedication of his 1716 Missa incurred Clementina II, Pope Clement XI. knighted him in 1715. In Rome, Scarlatti concluded his series of operas from with several works for the Teatro Capranica. The Griselda listed in January 1721 he described in the preface of the printed libretto himself as his 114th opera; 1722 followed as the end of the new version of Arminio, he had already written in 1703 for Pratolino. End of his life spent Scarlatti in Naples, where he met the German flautist and composer Johann Joachim Quantz few months before his death and gave Johann Adolph Hasse composition lessons.

His grave is located in the Chapel of St. Cecilia in the Church of S. Maria di Monte Santo at Naples. The written by Pietro Ottoboni grave inscription reads: HEIc situs est / eques Alexander Scarlatus / vir moderatione beneficentia / Pietate insignis / musices instaurator maximus (Eng. Here lies the knight Alexander Scarlattus, distinguished by self-control, generosity and kindness, the greatest innovator of music).



An established by Scarlatti list of his operas lists 117 titles, including probably just some written-out arias and edits.

His second opera L' onestà degli Amori already shows the recipe for success: belle canzoni, nove, e varie (beautiful, new and varied songs) as announce the two comic characters in the opera. Rosmene 1686 composed for Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, one of his lifetime, his best-known operas. Until 1696 Scarlatti had a virtual monopoly in Naples and contributed significantly to the success of the Neapolitan opera. Pirro e demetrio ( 1694 ) for example, was even played in Brunswick ( 1696 ) and London ( 1708).

Scarlatti is a traditionalist in principle; However, the history of music owes him a momentous innovation, namely the introduction of the three-movement " Sinfonia " quickly after the tempo scheme - slow - fast ( in contrast to the French overture with the sequence of slow - fast - slow), which he regularly since Dal male il bene as used introductory music of his operas. This form of "Symphony " became mandatory soon for all the Italian opera composer, and from it took those developing their beginning, which eventually led to the emergence of the classical symphony.

Scarlatti saw it as a noble task of an opera composer to express human passions, with all its nuances in music. For this purpose it served alongside an inexhaustible melodic inspiration and a rich harmonic vocabulary, which does not shrink from sharp dissonances and bold modulations. His aria melodies are not primarily designed as a " catchy ", but as tense vocal lines, which trace the emotional state of the person singing like a fever chart.

In the recitatives Scarlatti pays particular attention to a plastic musical representation of the text and draws particularly emotional or content with important keywords pictorial coloratura from. In addition, he accompanied the introduction of the string orchestra accompagnato recitative is attributed, he vendicata often apply an end since Olimpia to underline dramatically important situations.

In the early operas, there are still many short arias in strophic form, such as the famous " Già il Sole del swing " from L' HONESTA negli amori, which can be found in various " Aria Antiche " collections. In addition, the da capo aria begins increasingly to enforce. While they existed in the mid- 17th century, but was thanks to the content with which he fulfilled them soon as universally as he introduced the overture form. In virtually all Italian opera scores of about 1690 to about 1770, at least in the opera seria, forms a chain of da capo arias alternating with ( Sekko ) recitatives, the musical backbone.

In the course of his opera creations Scarlatti has the dimensions of this form continuously expanded and the proportion of the orchestra strengthened more and more. In all the arias a continuous basso accompaniment is the harmonic foundation and in many pieces of the first operas also the only accompaniment. These come soon individual String Instruments that perform preliminary, intermediate and sequels ( ritornello ), but pause during the singing. The development will eventually lead to artfully constructed structures with densely toothed vocal and instrumental part in which the musical material is distributed evenly on the vocals and the instruments (which include wind instruments come ). Scarlatti not save it with contrapuntal arts, perhaps the reason is that his recent operas the audience that asked for lighter fare, no longer had the success as his earlier works.


Scarlatti's oratorios treat alongside Christian- allegorical themes (La Santissima Trinità ) and legends of the saints (San Filippo Neri ) with preference substances from the Old Testament (eg, Re di Gerusalemme Sedecia ). Especially the latter are all designed with the musical and dramaturgical means of contemporary opera, but were often given in concert and in private circles to avoid the papal ban for stage performances in Rome. In principle, it is with them camouflaged operas.


In addition to its own after counting 115 operas which received 799 secular cantatas for one or two voices form the largest group of works by Scarlatti work. While the opera was directed at all levels of society, this kind of vocal chamber music was intended primarily for an intellectually oriented public private connoisseurs and lovers. The seals, often written by dilettante noble music friends, talking mostly substances from ancient mythology and pastoral poetry. The musical structure usually consists of three or four arias with recitatives connected; in the cantata for two voices also duets occur. Besides pure basso continuo accompaniment often act with even concertante solo instruments, in the extensive solo cantata Su le sponde del Tebro eg a trumpet.

Church Music

Scarlatti's fairs ( the supposed number of 200 is hard to believe ) and the rest of the church music are comparatively insignificant, with the exception of fair Santa Cecilia ( 1721), which is one of the first attempts in the style that culminated in the great fairs of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven was.

Instrumental works

Scarlatti is considered Preparer chamber music of the pre-classical era. With his Sonata a quattro, he created an early form of the string quartet that emerged from the six concerts in seven parts for two violins, cello obbligato (incidentally, also composed for tenor and bass ). Benjamin Cooke published these compositions 15 years after Scarlatti's death in London in 1740.

The symphony concerto grosso di (1715 ) for Winds and Strings essentially function on the embossed by Arcangelo Corelli Concerto grosso concept.

Scarlatti Sonatas for Flute and Strings late may have occurred 1724/25 for his pupil Johann Joachim Quantz.

Catalog of works (selection)

Operas ( librettist, place and year of first performance )

  • Gli Equivoci nel sembiante (DF Contini; Rome 1679 )
  • L' HONESTA negli amori (DF ​​or DF Contini Bernini, Rome 1680)
  • Tutto il times non vien by nuocere ( DG de Totis; Rome in 1681, recast as Dal male il bene Naples 1687 )
  • Il Pompeo ( N. Minato, Rome 1683)
  • Olimpia vendicata (A. Aureli, Naples 1685)
  • Clearco in Negroponte (A. Arcoleo; Naples 1686)
  • La Statira ( P. Ottoboni, Rome 1690)
  • La Rosaura (G. B. Lucini, Rome 1690)
  • La Teodora Augusta (A. Morselli, Naples 1692 )
  • II Flavio Cuniberto (M. Noris, Naples 1693)
  • Pirro e Demetrio (A. Morselli, Naples 1694 )
  • La caduta de ' Decemviri (p. Stampiglia; Naples 1697 )
  • La donna è ancora fedele (DF Contini; Naples 1698 )
  • Il prigioniero fortunato (FM Paglia; Naples 1698 )
  • L' Eraclea (p. Stampiglia; Naples 1700)
  • Arminio (A. Salvi; Pratolino 1703)
  • Mitridate Eupatore (G. Frigimelica - Roberti, Venice 1707)
  • Il trionfo della libertà (G. Frigimelica - Roberti, Venice 1707)
  • L' Amor e volubile tiranno (DG Pioli, Edit v. G. Papis, . Naples 1709)
  • La principessa fedele (A. Piovene; Naples 1710)
  • Scipione nelle Spagne (A. Zeno; Naples 1714)
  • Tigrane (D. Lalli, Naples 1715 )
  • Carlo re d' Allemagna (F. Silvani; Naples 1716)
  • Telemaco (C. S. Capeci; Rome 1718)
  • Il trionfo dell'onore (FA Tullio; Naples 1718)
  • Cambise (D. Lalli, Naples 1719)
  • Marco Attilio Regolo (M. Noris, Rome 1719)
  • Griselda (A. Zeno, Edit v. FM Ruspoli, . Rome 1721)