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SCARLATTI

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Domenico Scarlatti

This book provides a brilliant account of the life and the music of Domenico Scarlatti. The author, Ralph Kirkpatrick travelled widely to find and collect new facts and research the information for this book over a period of twelve years, resulting in the first adequate biography of one of the greatest harpsichord composers of the eighteenth century and possibly one of the most original composers of all time.

 

 

Domenico Scarlatti --- a short biography

The Italian composer Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples in 1685,son of composer Alessandro Scarlatti. He spent most of his life in the service of Portuguese and Spanish Royal familes.

He is classified as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style. His influential 555 sonatas were almost all written for the harpsichord with a few exceptions for chamber ensemble or organ.

He became a composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples in 1701. In 1704, he revised Carlo Francesco Pollarolo's opera Irene for performance at Naples. Soon after, his father sent him to Venice; no record exists of his next four years. In 1709 he went to Rome in the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire, where he met Thomas Roseingrave. Scarlatti was already an eminent harpsichordist: there is a story of a trial of skill with George Frideric Handel at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome where he was judged possibly superior to Handel on that instrument, although inferior on the organ. Later in life, he was known to cross himself in veneration when speaking of Handel's skill.

In Rome, Scarlatti composed several operas for Queen Casimira's private theatre. He was Maestro Di Cappella at St. Peter's from 1715 to 1719. In 1719 he travelled to London to direct his opera Narciso at the King's Theatre.

According to Vicente Bicchi (Papal Nuncio at the time), Domenico Scarlatti arrived in Lisbon on 29 November 1719. There he taught music to the Portuguese princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. He left Lisbon on 28 January 1727 for Rome, where he married Maria Caterina Gentili on 6 May 1728. In 1729 he moved to Sevilla, staying for four years and gaining a knowledge of Flamenco. In 1733 he went to Madrid as music master to Princess Maria Barbara, who had married into the Spanish royal house. When the Princess became Queen of Spain Scarlatti remained in the country for twenty-five years, where he had five children. After the death of his wife in 1742 he married a Spaniard, Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes. Among his compositions during his time in Madrid were a number of the 555 keyboard sonatas for which he is best known.

Scarlatti befriended the castrato singer Farinelli, a fellow Neapolitan also enjoying royal patronage in Madrid. The musicologist Ralph Kirkpatrick acknowledged that Farinelli's correspondence provides "most of the direct information about Scarlatti that has transmitted itself to our day." Domenico Scarlatti died in Madrid,at the age of 71. His residence on Calle Leganitos is designated with a historical plaque, and his descendants still live in Madrid.

 

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