By Fran Belin
“Dear reader, whether you be dilettante or professor, in these compositions do not expect any profound learning, but rather an ingenious jesting with art, to accommodate you to the mastery of the Harpsichord. Neither considerations of interest, nor visions of ambition, but only obedience moved me to publish them! Perhaps they will be agreeable to you; then all the more gladly will I obey other commands to favor you with more simple and varied style. Therefore show yourself more human than critical, and then your pleasure will increase …. Live Happily.”
With these words, Domenico Scarlatti, in the year 1738, and at the age of fifty-three, launched thirty harpsichord pieces, which he entitled “exercises.” It is possible that he realized this effort to be the major turning point in his life, but he could not have known that these pieces were destined to grow into a set of 550 sonatas that would stamp his name indelibly on the annals of history as one of the most strikingly original composers of the eighteenth century.
Born in Naples in 1685, the same year as Handel and J.S. Bach, Scarlatti early distinguished himself as a dramatic composer. He traveled a great deal, filling important posts as choir master in princely Italian and Portuguese families, until, in 1729, he accompanied princess Maria Barbara of Portugal (later Queen of Spain) to Seville and then to Madrid where he lived until his death in 1757. It was there that he wrote the major portion of his instrumental music, immersing himself in the folk tunes and dance rhythms of Spain, with their distinctive Moorish and later gypsy influences.
Join me on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at noon, at the Carnegie Hall Auditorium for a half hour of insights and music by Baroque Italian composer, Domenico Scarlatti, the second of the fall series entitled “Favorite Italian Composers.”