Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Happy Birthday, Domenico Scarlatti!


Portrait of Domenico Scarlatti painted in 1738 by Domingo Antonio Velasco

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) is best known for his 555 keyboard sonatas.  Although he was a composer of the Baroque period, his influence of his work extended into the Classical period.

Born in the same year as Bach and Handel, he was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti, also a composer of note.  Domenico Scarlatti spent most of his career in Spain and Portugal, where he was the music tutor of the Portuguese princess Maria Magdalena Barbara.  He continued to serve her when she married into the Spanish royal family.

His sonatas consist of a single movement.  Some are in sonata form, others in binary form.  Some are known for their unusual harmonies.

Lesser known are his operas and masses.  He wrote a number of operas for Maria Casimira, Queen of Poland, before his sojourn in Portugal and Spain.  He also wrote masses and other sacred music for the Capella Giulia, the quintessential Vatican choir formerly directed by none other than Palestrina.

Here is the jaunty Sonata in C Major K 159 played on the harpsichord by Luc Beauséjour.

I can’t resist including a video of the incomparable Vladimir Horowitz, shown here playing the beautiful Sonata in B Minor K 87 in Moscow.

And let’s not neglect Scarlatti’s exquisite choral music.  Here is his Salve Regina in A minor.

Scarlatti can be like potato chips: you can’t stop at just one sonata.  In case you crave more, check out the delightful Sonata in E Major K 380 played by Vadim Chaimovich or the Sonata in B Minor K 27 played with speed and bravura by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.  Abundant videos of Scarlatti sonatas and some of his sacred music can be found on YouTube.



Image attribution: Domenico Scarlatti by Domingo Antonio Velasco, 1738.

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Domenico Scarlatti!

  1. What a gorgeous introduction to the week. Thank you.


  2. Great, quirky stuff- and very important historically, for the development of sonata form and for keyboard technique. The celebrated C major and the E major sonatas are two of my favorites too.




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