Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in F Major, L. 188 – EDIT

Spring starts officially in two days (March 20). Here in Washington, DC, the daffodils started shooting up at the end of January, the magnolias are in full (and fragrant) bloom, and the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and along the Potomac are starting to emerge.

I moved to DC from the Maryland suburbs in 2007. When I lived there and my kids were growing up, we had a dog named Freckles that I’d walk every morning before work while my daughters were getting ready for school. These walks were not at all burdensome in the Spring as almost every day another different flower, bush or tree would start to bloom. I marveled at how evolution and selective breeding has spread blooming out over a period of months. That meant I would get to see a Technicolor marvel every morning. If they all bloomed at once, there wouldn’t be enough insects around to pollinate them all. And here is something more amazing: while we stand and admire their beauty from a distance, tiny little creatures are walking up and down their stalks and in and out of the blossoms. They carry on the process of fertilization. At the same time, flies, bees, moths, and butterflies ply the skies, dropping in for a sip of nectar and carrying the pollen to other plants, which ensures a hearty gene pool. If not for these critters, life on earth would cease. Their biomass has been estimated to far outweigh that of all other life on earth!

I once saw Deepak Chopra give a lecture. This was before he became an Ayurvedic, New Age, Erroneous Zone, Mega-Motivational, PBS Pledge-Drive speaker. He said that, chemically, we are not the same person we were just a few days ago. We’ve eaten food, which our bodies have broken down, metabolized and used to replace existing one. Our skin sloughs off millions of cells a day and these are replaced continually by new ones created by the great engine that is our body. At the same time, we are being bombarded from outer space by neutrons, protons, electrons, neutrinos, gamma rays, positrons, and what not. These knock around and replace the sub-atomic particles that make up our own atoms. So every day, we are being reborn quite literally. And if that is happening to our physical being, if you believe existence precedes essence, then why can’t that happen to our minds, intellect and personalities as well?

This reminds me of the pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, who about 2500 years ago said: “All is flux,” and “You can’t step into the same river twice.” The path of the river remains constant. The definition of the river remains constant. But the water that courses through the channel is always being renewed.

Maybe this is why I like Spring so much It reminds me of the constant chore we have to break out of our old, set patterns and renew ourselves.

I also love Spring, because it reminds me to listen to the album “Horowitz Plays Scarlatti.” Today’s piece, Sonata in F Major, L. 188 is my second favorite piece on the album. It starts out with one hand launching into a very fast and bubbly melody. After about 20 notes, Scarlatti starts the same melody in the second hand. It runs after the first, chasing it like two squirrels. They carry on weaving in and out, at times one slowing while the other speeds, one rising as the other falls, sometimes in unison. This continues until all of a sudden, Scarlatti brings both hands down with a crash that jars you. Then he does it again, before picking up the melody again for a shorter span, until he does the crash again. Next he repeats the whole piece over from the beginning. After that, he plays a wonderful flourish that sparkles. In the rest of the piece, he repeats the first pattern, the second and the first again, I believe for a while in a different key. Before you know it he’s loping both hand along into a grand finale.

Scarlatti served as the music master at St. Peter’s in Rome. Then, he was befriended by Handel, who got him a job at the royal chapel in London. His music, however, doesn’t lack the pompous courtliness of Handel’s. It has that fresh spontaneity and playfulness that is so much a part of the Italian character.

Of these 550 sonata, Scarlatti wrote to the listeners: “…show yourself more human than critical, and then your Pleasure will increase.”

Horowitz has a nice comment about the Scarlatti’s sonatas, from which he chose the 12 on my old vinyl LP:

“His music is down to earth; it has human qualities and sephardic elements. Many composers of his period speak to God. Scarlatti speaks to the people, the children of God. There are instances when he does speak to God, but more often, he chooses not to.”

I am grateful that his music speaks to me across the centuries.

Biography of Scarlatti

Download MP3s or buy CD of Horowitz Plays Scarlatti on Amazon


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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