Biography of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)

Composer and Italian harpsichordist born October 26, 1685 in Naples, and died in Madrid July 23, 1757.

His father, the famous musician Alessandro Scarlatti, was who led his musical training. In 1701 he joined the Royal Chapel of Naples (where his father was master) as organist and composer. In the manner of the time, it began with the composition of operas and church music. In 1705 he travelled to Venice, where he came into contact with Handel, Vivaldi and Gasparini.

In 1707 he was in Rome as Assistant to his father at Santa María la Mayor. In that city also dedicated to the direction of Orchestra and the composition of operas. He also held the office of master of the widow Queen of Poland María Casimira from 1711 until 1714, he began to serve the Portuguese Ambassador to the Vatican, the Marquis of Fontes. In Rome, Scarlatti attended meetings of the Accademia dell´Arcadia, convened by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, in which Chamber music was played.

A radical change in his career occurred in 1720, when he went to Portugal and Spain. The first country was maestro di cappella and harpsichordist in the Court of the Portuguese King in Lisbon (1721-1729) and gave harpsichord lessons to the infanta María Bárbara, which was followed to Spain after her marriage with Fernando VI, heir to the throne. He lived until his death at the Court of Madrid, where their music put him in contact with the aristocracy. Following his departure from Italy he devoted to music for keyboard and went on to create five hundred fifty sonatas, many of them gathered in a collection called "Essercizi per gravicembalo". These parts were copied by hand and carried to Italy by the singer Carlo Farinelligelding. The sonatas also sparked interest in a friend of Scarlatti, the English composer Thomas Roseingrave, who, upon his return to London in 1739, published the first edition of these parts there and helped popularize the work of the Italian musician in Britain.

Scarlatti married twice, in 1728 and 1729. Result of both marriages were nine children. In 1738, King Juan V of Portugal ordered Knight of the order of Santiago.

His sacred works and their secular cantatas are noteworthy, but Domenico Scarlatti's fame is mainly due to his sonatas for harpsichord. Almost all, with a few exceptions, are written in a single movement, and in binary form. In his works he tried to break all the rules, showing willing to new harmonic experiences, even if they are identifiable rhythmic schemes of allemande, Sarabande, courante, minuet and giga. In them are experiments such as the crossing of hands, repeated quick notes and many other innovative effects.

His work for keyboard was a great influence on the music of Iberian composers such as Carlos Seixas Portuguese and Spanish Antonio Soler.

Scarlatti. Key, sonata K516.

Selected discography

15 sonatas for harpsichord. Performers: Christophe Rousset (key). DECCA 458165. Mass of Madrid (+ works of Caldara and Monteverdi). Performers: Balazs Kerényi, Eva Lax, Bela Szilagyi, Gábor Kállay, Ibolya Verebics, Ferenc Koczias, Balázs Maté, harmonious Concerto, Monteverdi choir. Director: Eva Kollar. HUNGAROTON 31273. Complete works for keyboard. Performers: Scott Ross (key). ERATO 45309. Scarlatti Vol. 1. Performers: Pierre Hantaï (key). 9918 LOOK. Sonatas for keyboard. Interpreters: Ivo Pogorelich (piano). DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 435855. Sonatas for violin and Cembalo. Performers: Sergio Vartolo, Ugo Orlandi. BONGIOVANNI 5122-3. Stabat Mater. Performers: Dan Hyde, Joseph Crouch, Ashley Grote, Richard Butler, Nicholas Daly, choir of the King´s College, Cambridge. Director: Stephen Cleobury. EMI 57498.

Links on the internet; web page with music files of works by Domenico Scarlatti (English).


ALIER, ROGER. Scarlatti. Madrid: Daimon, 1985.

ALONSO-Gomez, M. Domenico Scarlatti, 13 recherches: à l'occasion du tricentenaire de naissance of Domenico Scarlatti célèbre à Nice lors des premières Rencontres internationales de musique ancienne. Nice: Société de musique ancienne de Nice, 1986.

DELGADO, F. Doménico Scarlatti and Bárbara de Braganza: a tale of love and music. Madrid: Real music, 2000.

O'STEEN EDWARDS, D. Iberian elements in the Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti: a lecture recital, together with three recitals of L.V. Beethoven, J.S. Bach, J. Brahms, and selected works of other composers. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1985.

WILLIAMS, P.F. Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: tercentenary essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

VV.. Domenico Scarlatti in Spain: general catalogue of exhibitions, Utopia and reality in architecture, music iconography, Salon and cutting a new sensibility. Madrid: National Institute of scenic arts and music, 1985.