Domenico Scarlatti: The composer of around 550 binary-form keyboard sonatas (1685-1757)
- Posted by: Marren Vasquez
- Category: Famous Classical Musicians
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) was an Italian composer and musician of the Baroque era, known for his virtuosic keyboard works and innovative approach to harmony and rhythm. He composed over 550 keyboard sonatas, as well as vocal works, chamber music, and operas. Scarlatti was born into a musical family and received his early musical training from his father, Alessandro Scarlatti, a well-known composer, and teacher. He went on to hold several prestigious positions as a composer and performer, including as the court composer for the King of Portugal. Despite facing financial struggles, illness, and family troubles throughout his life, Scarlatti continued to compose prolifically and left behind a significant legacy that has influenced generations of musicians.
Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples, Italy, on October 26, 1685. The sixth kid in the family to be born was Domenico. He was Pietro Filippo’s younger brother, who later rose to fame as an organist and composer. His father, Alessandro Scarlatti, was a highly respected composer of the Baroque era, and his mother, Vittoria, came from a family of musicians. As a child, Scarlatti received his initial music education from his father, who recognized his son’s exceptional talent. Scarlatti’s musical abilities were evident from a young age. By the age of 15, he was already performing in chapels.
- Keyboard Sonatas: Scarlatti composed over 550 keyboard sonatas, which are considered to be some of his most important works. His sonatas are known for their technical demands and innovative use of harmony and rhythm. Some of his most famous sonatas include K. 141, K. 159, and K. 380.
- Stabat Mater of 1715: Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater is a religious work for choir and orchestra that is considered to be one of his greatest vocal compositions. The work is based on the Latin hymn of the same name and is noted for its expressive and emotional qualities.
- Operas: Scarlatti composed over 12 operas during his career, many of which were highly successful in their time.
- Chamber Music: Scarlatti’s chamber music includes works for strings and continuo, and is known for its virtuosic demands and innovative use of harmony and rhythm. His most famous chamber works include the Sonata in D Major for Two Guitars and the Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in D minor.
- Keyboard Exercises: Scarlatti’s keyboard exercises, known as the “Essercizi per gravicembalo,” are a set of challenging technical exercises for the harpsichord. The exercises are highly regarded for their innovative use of harmony and rhythm and are still studied by keyboard players today.
- Financial Struggles: Scarlatti often struggled financially throughout his career. Despite holding several prestigious positions as a composer and performer, including as the court composer for the King of Portugal, he was often paid poorly or not at all for his work.
- Illness: Scarlatti suffered from a number of health problems throughout his life, including gout, arthritis, and asthma. These conditions often made it difficult for him to perform and compose, and he frequently complained about his poor health in his letters.
- Family Troubles: Scarlatti had a difficult relationship with his father, the composer Alessandro Scarlatti, who was highly critical of his son’s work. This strained relationship may have contributed to Scarlatti’s decision to leave Italy and seek employment elsewhere.
- Political Turmoil: Scarlatti lived through a period of political upheaval in Europe, including the War of the Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic Wars. These events disrupted his work and forced him to move frequently in search of employment.
- Lack of Recognition: Despite his significant contributions to music, Scarlatti was not always recognized during his lifetime as a major composer. It was only in the 20th century that his music began to receive the attention and praise it deserved.
What can we learn from Scarlatti's Music?
- Explore new techniques: Scarlatti’s keyboard technique was highly innovative for his time, and he constantly pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the instrument.
- Experiment with harmony: Scarlatti’s music features complex harmonic language, which was highly innovative for the time.
- Incorporate folk music: Scarlatti’s use of Spanish and Portuguese folk music in his compositions helped him develop a unique style that has since become widely admired.
- Focus on melody: Scarlatti’s music is highly melodic and features memorable themes and motifs that are instantly recognizable.
- Emphasize virtuosity: Scarlatti’s music is highly virtuosic, featuring complex
What can we learn from Scarlatti as a person?
- Pursue your passion: Scarlatti’s love for the guitar was evident throughout his life. He continued to play and compose for the instrument, despite being known primarily for his harpsichord music.
- Overcome adversity: Scarlatti faced several challenges in his life, including financial difficulties and poor health. Despite these obstacles, he continued to compose and perform at the highest level.
- Embrace cultural diversity: Scarlatti’s exposure to the music of Portugal and Spain influenced his compositions and helped him develop his unique style.
- Collaborate with others: Scarlatti’s music often featured collaborations with other musicians, including his father and brother. These partnerships helped him create some of his most innovative works.
- Persevere in the face of criticism: Scarlatti’s music was often criticized by his contemporaries for its unconventional style. However, he continued to compose in his unique style, which has since become widely admired.
Now, let’s put your Scarlatti knowledge to the test! Take a look at these questions to see how much you know about the legendary composer and his works!
Domenico Scarlatti was a highly influential and innovative composer of the Baroque era, known for his virtuosic keyboard works and expressive vocal compositions. Despite facing numerous challenges throughout his life, including financial struggles, illness, and family troubles, Scarlatti continued to compose prolifically and left behind a significant body of work that is still admired and celebrated today. His innovative approach to harmony and rhythm has had a lasting impact on classical music, and his music continues to inspire and influence musicians and audiences around the world. Scarlatti’s legacy as a composer and musician is a testament to his creativity, perseverance, and dedication to his craft.
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