Wednesday, 11 June 2008

108. Domenico Scarlatti - Keyboard Sonatas (1740s)


Title: Complete Keyboard sonatas Vol.5
Performer: Benjamin Firth
Year: 1999
Length: 1 hours 12 minutes


This was a pretty amazing piece of music, the CD consists of a selection of some of Scarlatti's 555 sonatas, and they are all not only amazing but incredibly ahead of their time. Interestingly for this list, which prides itself on trying to be quite historically faithful and with good reason, these pieces are played on the piano. But then they sound so modern that it works, they sound like they were always meant for the piano, which they weren't.

Interestingly Scarlatti was quite isolated from the rest of the musical world, being in the Iberian Peninsula for most of his life, first in Portugal and then in Spain. Scarlatti started doing something that you would only hear about being done in a large extent with the Romantics: including inspirations of folk music in his piano compositions. This leads to some very unique and beautiful music. Scarlatti is very much beyond the constrictions of the Baroque period.

This has been the most exciting discovery lately on this list, the music is pretty amazing, it reminds me of Schubert at times, which is pretty much impossible but it is played in a sensitive way that really highlights Scarlatti's innovation and brilliance as a composer.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Only a small fraction of Scarlatti's compositions were published during his lifetime; Scarlatti himself seems to have overseen the publication in 1738 of the most famous collection, his 30 Essercizi ("Exercises"). These were rapturously received throughout Europe, and were championed by the foremost English writer on music of the eighteenth century, Dr. Charles Burney.

The many sonatas which were unpublished during Scarlatti's lifetime have appeared in print irregularly in the two and a half centuries since. Scarlatti has, however, attracted notable admirers, including Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Béla Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich, Heinrich Schenker and Vladimir Horowitz. The Russian school of pianism has particularly championed the sonatas.

Scarlatti's 555 keyboard sonatas are single movements, mostly in binary form, and are almost all intended for the harpsichord (there are four for organ, and a few where Scarlatti suggests a small instrumental group). Modern pianoforte technique owes much to their influence. Some of them display harmonic audacity in their use of discords, and also unconventional modulations to remote keys.

Other distinctive attributes of Scarlatti's style are the following:

* The influence of Iberian (Portuguese and Spanish) folk music. An example is Scarlatti's use of the Phrygian mode and other tonal inflections more or less alien to European art music. Also some of Scarlatti's figurations and dissonances are guitar-like.

* A formal device in which each half of a sonata leads to a pivotal point, which the Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick termed "the crux", and which is sometimes underlined by a pause or fermata. Before the crux Scarlatti sonatas often contain their main thematic variety, and after the crux the music makes more use of repetitive figurations as it modulates away from the home key (in the first half) or back to the home key (in the second half).

Horowitz plays Sonata L.33 :

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