Domenico Scarlatti

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti ( born October 26, 1685 in Naples, † July 23, 1757 in Madrid) was an Italian composer and harpsichordist. Its main importance lies in the sonatas for harpsichord that count the most original of the genre in the 18th century.

Early years

Domenico Scarlatti was a son of the at that time very well-known and prolific composer Alessandro Scarlatti. Just as the older brother Pietro Filippo Scarlatti he also took the profession of composer; so he took lessons with Francesco Gasparini. His first operas were already listed 1703 in Naples, including " L' Ottavia ristituita ". Already in 1701, he worked for the court orchestra as an organist and composer. In Florence he was from 1702 together with the Father in the service of Prince Ferdinando de ' Medici.

In the first decades of Domenico Scarlatti's career was not exceptional. She led him in 1707 to Venice and allowed employments with the exiled Polish queen Maria Casimira Sobieska in Rome, the Vatican and Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Neither productivity nor fame could compete with those of the father, his music from this time - mostly vocal works, few of which are still preserved - remained conventional. In Venice he met George Frideric Handel, with whom he became friends despite the rivalry. According to one anecdote they delivered in Rome a competition, won in the Handel organ playing, Scarlatti, however, decided the harpsichord for themselves. On the keyboard instruments played Scarlatti been to Venice with ten fingers and impressed by his virtuosity the audience. For this purpose, an English traveler and colleague of the famous father:

"He was as if ten times hundred devils were sitting, never before had he heard such a gorgeous game."

In 1719 Scarlatti music teacher and Kapellmeister at the royal court in Lisbon, where he besides vocal and orchestral works mainly suites for harpsichord wrote. He taught the people suffering from severe asthma Portuguese princess Maria Bárbara at the harpsichord, which proved to be great, eagerly practicing music lover. The musical works of the Lisbon creative period no longer exist, since almost all of the scores of the local libraries was lost in the earthquake of 1755.

When Maria Bárbara 1729 Ferdinand VI. married, Scarlatti followed her for four years to Seville, where he got to know the music of the Spanish Roma. The great success of the musician began only after his emigration in 1733 were made to the Spanish court in Madrid set.

Later years - the sonatas

After moving to Spain Scarlatti devoted almost exclusively to the harpsichord. Because of the distance from home and inner solution of the Father, so at least the view Kirkpatrick, as well as to the influence of Spanish music he created in 1738 from a very extensive work of 555 ( obtained ) harpsichord sonatas. They justified Domenico Scarlatti's fame. ( The numbered with K 81 and K 88-91 are not only harpsichord sonatas, but for cello and basso continuo. ) You are not in the form of autographs, but are summarized as copies in different volumes. Very often follow two sonatas in the same key on each other or differ only in the scale type. These copies usually evolved in the last years of Scarlatti. However, there is no evidence that the sonatas were composed in this period, is neither clear whether the coupling of the keys was intended by the composer.

Scarlatti died on July 23, 1757 at his home in Calle de Leganitos 35 in Madrid and was buried in the Convento de San Norberto monastery, which was demolished in 1864. His grave is therefore no longer receive.

About him as a private citizen very little is known. He was said to be a polite but reserved man, who some thought was a loner. He was a passionate gambler who often made ​​large debts that were generously paid by his patroness, the Spanish Queen Maria Bárbara.


Several authors have created business directories. Today is almost entirely for the piano sonatas that used by Ralph Kirkpatrick ( abbreviated as K). He was guided by the dates of us surviving copies and the few published works. Admittedly this list is not chronological, but is likely to represent an advance over collections that are based on stylistic criteria, such as the long used edition of Alessandro Longo ( Longo directory). In these sonatas are also arranged in its sole discretion to suites.

2006 saw Daniel Laumans among Gaspar Smit ( 1767-1819 ) applied piano manuscripts of Ávila another, hitherto unknown sonata by Scarlatti: " Sonata / Don Domenico Escarlati / punto alto" and led them in 2007 at the harpsichord again.

Characteristics of the sonatas

Overall, the sonatas are difficult to bring to a common denominator. However, there are some basic features:

The sonatas are in two parts, both parts are repeated. If the Sonata in E flat major, then modulates the first part mostly from the tonic to the dominant, in the subsequent second part of the harmonious development of the dominant leads back to the tonic. Some major sonatas, however, both parts end in minor, others have a second part, which does not begin with the dominant, but a more remote key. If the Sonata in a minor key, so modulates the first part mostly from the tonic to Tonikaparallele, the second back to the tonic.

Regardless of whether it is a sonata in major or minor, have the sonatas in the first part of several motifs that recur frequently in the second part. Frequently it comes to motivic work, the harmonic texture is dense and leads to more distant keys. Another characteristic is the use of repetitive structures. Some sonatas act as an archetype of a few decades later establishing itself ends Piano Sonata, as it was developed about in Vienna. Scarlatti's piano work can be attributed due to the change in style for the sentimental style as a bridge between the Baroque and Classical. " Wild flowers at the fence of the classical " they are called in a publication Barbara tub.

Scarlatti wrote sonatas as practice pieces for Queen Maria Bárbara. The term sonata is here - to be understood in its original meaning as " sound play" and " game piece " - in contrast to vocal music. In Scarlatti's youth, it was common practice longer works as Toccatas, shorter, and joints, to be called sonatas. It is significant that not a single Scarlatti wrote Toccata and only one set of variations.

Within a few sonatas a change of pace is composed. This is not to be interpreted as a sign of Mehrsätzigkeit because the individual sections together only "work".

Apart from these characteristics that is downright Experimental many sonatas striking. Especially influences of Spanish folk music and Spanish dance forms combined Domenico Scarlatti with his early musical imprints for a personal style. Is amazing how nonchalant he incorporates folk elements into his composed for a feudal framework sonatas and integrated profane everyday experiences with sound, imitates and transcends. He also uses sounds of natural origin, such as the songbird singing. As he anticipates practices of the late Romantic and the music program here, it shall also agree on the conventions of his time, particularly in terms of voice leading, sovereign of time; some places with Acciaccaturen can even remember sound clusters, as they systematically found its way into the music until the 20th century.


At the technical level Scarlatti enters with wide leaps (eg clock 80-99 in K. 28), crossing the hands (eg in clock 6-9 in K. 16, bars 22 ff. K. in 29 or clock 23ff. , in K. 53), fast Tonrepititionen (eg clock 23-30 of 211 K. clock or 13 et seq of K. 149), passages in sixths and octaves (eg in stroke 66-72 in K. 44), broken chords and scales at a rapid pace over several octaves (eg, 1 ff clock in K. 50), arpeggios over four octaves (eg in stroke 30 and 31 K. 107) a new level of virtuosity that leaves everything behind what was until then demanded the harpsichordist. A later witness quoted the following statement by Scarlatti:

" Scarlatti said often that he knew quite well that he had set aside all rules of composition in his piano pieces, there were almost no other rule, have followed a man of genius to look out as this, the only sense whose object is the music not to displease. Since nature had given him ten fingers, so he saw no reason why he should not use all ten! "

Concert care of the sonatas

While the sonatas have long been more than " show pieces " played - many require great virtuosity from the performers - they were, in particular on the basis of the editorial work of Ralph Kirkpatrick, rediscovered as a full-fledged compositions since the 1950s. The recordings of Vladimir Horowitz in the early 1960s to the modern concert grand contributed significantly to this rediscovery. The sonatas of Scarlatti now belong to the repertoire of almost every concert pianist.

A first standard-setting complete recording of the sonatas on the harpsichord was made in 1988 by the American harpsichordist Scott Ross. Well over a hundred internationally renowned pianists in the last 50 years or recorded two dozen sonatas on modern pianos; There are currently ( November 2013 ) of at least 418 of the 558 sonatas piano versions of 121 concert pianist in recordings before; by some sonatas there are dozens of recordings. A more complete recording also on the harpsichord does Richard Lester; Pieter -Jan Belder has submitted a complete recording on harpsichord, fortepiano and organ. A complete recording on the Bösendorfer grand piano is being developed by Carlo grenade; it stands ( November 2013 ) at 270 sonatas. The company plans to Naxos with various concert pianists a complete recording on the piano, by the ( November 2013 ) 14 parts have appeared. There are also numerous recordings on other instruments such as accordion, harp, guitar, mandolin, among others A new complete edition of the notes is published by Ricordi.