On October 26, 1685, Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples, Italy. He is considered the father of modern piano playing as he invented the crossing of hands, rapid repetition of notes, and long arpeggio passages. I have written about two of his other pieces way back around the first of spring–Sonata in F Major, L. 188, and the Sonata in D Major, L.424.
Scarlatti wrote over 600 sonatas for piano, and critics have said that only a few were duds, so really I could write about nothing but him for the next few years, but that’s not fair. What’s more, I’m only familiar with the 12 pieces that Horowitz recorded that appear on his album, “Horowitz Plays Scarlatti,” which dates from the early 1960s. On the other hand, I could envision a web site devoted just to that composer, in which someone with more musical training than I would write an essay on each sonata. Any takers?
What has always struck me about Scarlatti is how meticulous and playful a composer he was. Today’s Sonata in G Major, Longo 349 demonstrates that as well as any I know. The right hand scurries about playing impossibly fast runs, punctuated and sometimes subdued by the more serious left. I get the image of a kitten playing tag with the tail of a large but benevolent golden retriever. There is so much sweetness in this music it is breathtaking.
In looking up Scarlatti’s biography, I was pleased to see he was from Naples, a city I lived in from 1980 to 1981. The people there have a passion for life that I have not found in many other places. How fitting that Scarlatti came from there.