Domenico Scarlatti


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Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was an Italian composer who spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. He is classified primarily as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style and he was one of the few Baroque composers to transition into the classical period. Like his renowned father Alessandro Scarlatti, he composed in a variety of musical forms, although today he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas.

Life and Career

Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples, Kingdom of Naples, belonging to the Spanish Crown, in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. He was the sixth of ten children of the composer and teacher Alessandro Scarlatti. Domenico's older brother, Pietro Filippo, was also a musician.

He probably first studied music under his father. Other composers who may have been his early teachers include Gaetano Greco, Francesco Gasparini, and Bernardo Pasquini, all of whom may have influenced his musical style. He was appointed as 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 afterwards, his father sent him to Venice. After this, nothing is known of Scarlatti's life until 1709, when he went to Rome in the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire. He met Thomas Roseingrave there. 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 Casimire's private theater. He was Maestro Di Cappella at St. Peter's from 1715 to 1719. In 1719 he traveled to London to direct his opera Narciso at the King's Theater.

According to Vicente Bicchi (Papal Nuncio at the time), Domenico Scarlatti arrived in Lisbon on November 29, 1719. There he taught music to the Portuguese princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. He left Lisbon on January 28, 1727 for Rome, where he married Maria Caterina Gentili on May 6, 1728. In 1729 he moved to Seville, staying for four years. In 1733 he went to Madrid as music master to Princess Maria Barbara, who had married into the Spanish royal house. The Princess later became Queen of Spain. Scarlatti remained in the country for the remaining twenty-five years of his life, and had five children there. After the death of his first 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 and harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick commented 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. He was buried at a convent there, in Madrid, but his grave no longer exists.

Recent Additions

Scarlatti Sonata in A major K 208: Brouwer  (2 of 12)

Scarlatti Sonata in A major K 208: Brouwer (2 of 12)

theodor milkov - domenico scarlatti sonata e minor K 198

theodor milkov - domenico scarlatti sonata e minor K 198

Domenico Scarlatti - Piano Sonate in F minor L.118

Domenico Scarlatti - Piano Sonate in F minor L.118

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