Personalities | Domenico Scarlatti | Late Baroque | Classical

(Do-man’-e-ko Skär-lat’-te) 1685–1757
Italian composer and harpsichordist

Domenico Scarlatti was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti. He was born in Naples and lived there until 1704, when he joined his father in Rome. The following year he travelled to the cities of Florence and Venice; during his time in the latter he met the great composer of the era, Handel. Scarlatti returned to Rome in 1708 and entered the service of the exiled Polish queen, Maria Casimira, the following year. He provided her with an oratorio and several operas including Tetide in Sciro (‘Thetis on Skyros’, c. 1712) of which only 10 arias have survived. In 1714 Scarlatti was appointed maestro di cappella Giulia and also worked in the service of the Portuguese ambassador. He resigned from both positions in 1719 and left Rome for Palermo. His opera Narciso was staged in London the following year.

By 1724, he had accepted the post of maestro di cappella at the Portuguese court in Lisbon, where he taught the king’s daughter, Maria Barbara. In 1729 she married Crown Prince Ferdinando of Spain; Scarlatti benefitted from this union when she made him her maestro di musica. He continued to serve Maria Barbra for the rest of his life. Scarlatti wrote more than 500 inventive and highly original harpsichord sonatas, almost all of which are single-movement lessons (essercizi). Although 30 were published under the title Essercizi per gravicembalo (‘Lessons on the Harpsichord’) in London in 1738, the bulk of the sonatas, copied out in Spain between 1742 and 1757, remained in manuscript books, unpublished during his lifetime and only received their due respect after his death.

Recommended Recording:
Harpsichord Sonatas, Andreas Staier (Teldec or Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

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