Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Domenico Scarlatti - Harpsichord Virtuoso

Period: Baroque
Nationality: Italian
Born: October 26, 1685 A.D. in Naples, Italy.
Died:  July 23, 1757 A.D. in Madrid, Spain.
Parents: Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonia Anzalone.
Contemporaries: Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangelo Corelli, George Friedrich Handel. 
Specialist Genres: Harpsichord Sonatas
Major Works: 550 harpsichord sonatas, Stabat Mater a Dieci Voci e Basso Continuo, cantatas, oratorio, and operas.

            On October 26, 1685, in the city of Naples where classical music was a big deal, the Scarlatti family had their sixth child, it was a son! Mr. Scarlatti named his son Giuseppe Domenico; and just like his father and many other family members, Domenico would one day become an incredible musician. 

                It is a little bit of a mystery how Domenico started learning music. Some people believe that he learned from his father, others say that he learned from his uncles, but there is not much that we can go on. However, we do know that Domenico heard lots of great music, since lots of musicians passed through Naples.

           On September 13, 1701 at the age of 16, Domenico was appointed organist and composer of the Naples royal chapel, the same place that his father was maestro. A year later, Domenico and his father left for Florence where it is possible that they met the man that invented the first piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori. I say possible, because we do not know for sure, since neither Domenico nor Cristofori left us a diary or anything else of the sort.

            Domenico started working for Maria Casimira, the exiled Polish queen, that lived in Rome. Once Domenico started working for Casimira, he was given the opportunity to write at least one cantata, one oratorio and seven operas. Domenico also got to meet other cool composers, like Arcangelo Corelli, George Friedrich Handel, and Thomas Roseingrave. Scarlatti and Handel challenged each other to see who was more talented at the organ and harpsichord. Who do you think won? They both did! Handel was better on the organ and Scarlatti was better on the harpsichord. Scarlatti kept practicing and perfecting himself until he was one of the best  harpsichordists in all of Italy.

             Years pass by and Scarlatii wrote more music, played more music, and traveled around a little bit. It is in 1728 that Domenico Scarlatti did something that he never did before, something very beautiful, fun, and serious at the same time: he got married! 

         Scarlatti was a composer that pushed himself to be as creative as possible, from making the harpsichord to sound like the guitars he heard in Spain to making sure that his music had surprises for whoever approached it. Some people say that his music was witty and even sinister. Do not ever be content with playing your pieces of music one way, always push yourself to play it in the most creative way possible!

            Domenico married Maria Catarina Gentili and they had five children together. Life was good, Domenico is married, has children and he gets to teach King John V's talented daughter  the Infanta Maria Barbara, and King John's younger brother Don Antonio. It was in the years of teaching the Infanta Maria Barbara that Scarlatti wrote some of his most significant and exciting pieces, 500 sonatas for the harpsichord. Scarlatti eventually traveled all the way to Madrid, Spain, where he finished his life and died on July 23, 1757. 


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