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Composer Birthday: Domenico Scarlatti, born October 26

Composer Birthday: Domenico Scarlatti, born October 26 featured image

1685 was a good vintage for Baroque composers: it marked the birth year for JS Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti. Technically, he was a Baroque composer, but many of his works foreshadowed the Classical era, when he began writing sonatas for harpsichord (that weren’t structured the way we think of sonatas, like Mozart’s). He was a whiz on the keyboard, and he is rumoured to have participated in a keyboard “showdown” with Handel. Scarlatti won the harpsichord round; Handel, the organ. No grudge, though; in his old age, Scarlatti is said to have crossed himself in deep respect when mentioning Handel’s name, such was his regard for him.

Scarlatti made his way to Spain to escape the musical clutches of his father (stage fathers seem to be a theme here; Clara Schumann and Mozart both had demanding dads) and built his career there. His music was unconventional in its day – he used clashing tones and unexpected transitions from one key to another – daring at the time. He also perfectly exemplified the music equivalent of wearing lots of ruffles and frills; his music is laced with jumps, rapidly repeated notes, very quick passages and chirping fanfares.

György Sziffra gives a high-wattage performance of Scarlatti’s Sonata K. 96 in D Major (and adds quite the flourish at the end).

Domenico Scaraltti was born on October 26, 1685 in Naples, and died July 23, 1757 in Madrid.

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