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Domenico Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti (October 26, 1685 in Naples - July 23, 1757 in Madrid) was an Italian composer of baroque music.

It is probable that Scarlatti first studied under his father, Alessandro Scarlatti, before becoming a pupil of Gaetano Greco[?].

In 1704, he remodelled Pollaroli[?]'s Irene for performance at Naples. Soon after this his father sent him to Venice, where he studied under Gasparini[?], and met Thomas Roseingrave[?] who would later make the first English edition of Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas. Domenico was already a harpsichord-player of eminence, and there is a story that at a trial of skill with George Friderich Handel at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome he was adjudged his equal on that instrument, although inferior on the organ.

In 1709, Domenico entered the service of Marie Casimire[?], queen of Poland, then living in Rome, and composed several operas for her private theatre. He was Maestro di Cappella at St Peter's from 1715 to 1719, and in the latter year came to London to direct his opera Narciso at the King's Theatre.

In 1720 or 1721 he went to Lisbon, where he taught music to the princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. He was at Naples again in 1725, but in 1729 went to Madrid as music master to the princess, who had married into the Spanish royal house. He remained in Spain for some twenty-five years, holding various honourable appointments. During this time he composed over five hundred keyboard sonatas. It is for these works that he is best remembered today.

Like his father, Domenico Scarlatti was a prolific composer, and his keyboard sonatas are in a style that had not been seen before, widely seen as some of the most original pieces of their time. Little known until the beginning of the 19th century, their technical difficulties have caused them to be regarded as mere studies in virtuosity, and modern pianoforte technique owes much to their influence. Considered from a purely musical point of view they display an audacity of harmony and modulation (changing from one key to another), a freshness and variety of invention, a perfection of workmanship and a vigorous intellectuality in thematic development that places them almost on a level with the sonatas of Beethoven.


  • Kirkpatrick, Ralph. Domenico Scarlatti. Princeton University Press, 1953. ISBN 0691027080

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