Sonata in G Major, K 146 (L 349)

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–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.

Scarlatti Biography

Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in F Major, L. 188

Today, since it’s Sunday, I’m taking a break from the A-Z challenge and doing a longer post.

Spring started officially almost a month ago here in Washington, DC.  But it didn’t really take hold until this week.  Usually theirs a progression–crocus, daffodils, tulips, magnolias, cherry blossoms, azaleas and so on.  This week everything seemed to pop at once. Tthe magnolias are in full (and fragrant) bloom, and the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Blossom peaked on Thursday, April 10.

I moved to DC from the Maryland suburbs in 2007. When I lived in Maryland and my daughters 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. The biomass of insects is 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 his hands 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 his 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

Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in D Major L. 424

Spring has been long coming in Washington, DC where I live.  It’s April 16 and we had snow just a week ago followed by cold.  The cherry blossom festival was rained out last weekend.  This weekend it’s been sunny but windy.  However, that’s still good.  Sun makes you feel alive.  The cherry blossoms around the tidal basin will start coming out in full force in a few days.  So rather than hold off any longer, I’m going to write today about my favorite piece of Spring music.

For decades, every year on March 20 since high school, I used to reach for an old vinyl LP called “Horowitz Plays Scarlatti” and cue up the first track.

When I first heard this sonata, originally written for harpsichord and transcribed for piano by Vladimir Horowitz, it knocked my socks off. And it still does to this day.

I remember the day I found this album at the local library. I was leafing through the classical recordings on the shelf and suddenly, there it was in my hands. Someone had told me that Horowitz–who had married Toscanini’s daughter–was one of the greatest pianists alive (Rubenstein was still around as well). I hurried home with my prize and when the piece started it was as if the music fit perfectly into the receptors of the cells that process music in my brain. What’s more I just knew this piece epitomized how I felt about Spring.

That Spring, of my senior year in high school, I listened to it incessantly. In the fall I left for Purdue University, where all my brothers had gone, to study computer science, which all my friends were going to study. I lasted three days before changing my major to English. At the end of the semester, I transferred to a local extension of Indiana University and lived at my parent’s house during the Spring semester. Scarlatti got me through that period. In the fall I transferred to the main campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, and ended up in a huge, hi-rise dorm. My dorm-mates were local drongos, out to get drunk, sow their seed, party till they puked, and listen to mind-numbingly loud rock music. (I’m not against Rock music, it’s just hard to appreciate it at four in the morning the day before an exam.)

In the spring semester of the next year, I transferred to a French language-speaking dorm, and I had changed majors again to French literature. This little dorm sat in the middle of a quiet little meadow through which ran a small stream. The grounds were filled with flowering dogwoods, redbud Judas, hawthorn, and quince bushes. My dorm was co-ed and my dorm mates majored in languages, music, art, journalism, dance and literature. For the first time in my life, when I turned on my classical music people would walk in and say things like “Oh, that’s nice what is it?” Or even more astounding “Oh, so you’re a fan of Scarlatti, too?

You cannot imagine the relief when, after years of feeling like a freak, I finally found a community of people who shared my tastes and interests. I was able to understand how homosexuals must feel when they move to San Francisco or XYY chromosomal men feel when they join the Navy SEALS.

Scarlatti starts the Sonata in D major with a little flourish that ends with the pianist performing an incredibly fast trill. Then it launches off into a rhythm played at a tempo to which it would be impossible to dance without bursting into flames. Sonatas (meaning “sounded” as opposed to “sung”) evolved out of dance tunes. Scarlatti drives along at this breathtaking speed and then just stops. Then he begins again, this time varying the melody a range higher, and making it sound even more meticulous. Then he pauses, before launching off in another direction. I haven’t been able to count how many times he does this, but he does it without sounding repetitious. Of course, since it is such a short piece–maybe 2 or 3 minutes–you don’t get tired of it.

At the risk of sounding a bit like Forest Gump, the pieces on this album are like a box of wonderful bon bons. Each one carries within it a short sweet musical idea that completely absorbs you for a while and then fades away, leaving you with a nice warm feeling. When she was 9, I told my youngest daughter, Simone, that this piece reminds me of Spring and she said “Oh, yes. It sounds like butterflies. Or insects running around.”

Writing this and other sonatas for harpsichord must have enlivened Scarlatti as well. In his 72 years on this earth, he managed to compose over 600! I will write about a few more during the next couple of days.

I wish there were some way of being to reach back over the centuries to talk with the people of the past. The first person I would contact, had I that power, would be Domenico Scarlatti. I would just thank him for his wonderful Sonata in D Major and tell him that like on every first day of Spring,  I listen to it again.

Biography of Scarlatti

Download MP3s or buy CD of Horowitz Plays Scarlatti on Amazon

Domenico Scarlatti. Sonata in G Major, Longo 349

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.

Scarlatti Biography

Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in D Major L. 424 – Edit

This is it: the day I finally write about my favorite piece of Spring music. Every year on March 20 since high school, if possible, I reach for old vinyl LP called “Horowitz Plays Scarlatti” and cue up the first track.

When I first heard this sonata, originally written for harpsichord and transcribed for piano by Vladimir, it knocked my socks off. And it still does to this day.

I remember the day I found this album at the local library. I was leafing through the classical recordings on the shelf and suddenly, there it was in my hands. Someone had told me that Horowitz-who had married Toscanini’s daughter-was one of the greatest pianists alive (Rubenstein was still around as well). I hurried home with my prize and when the piece started it was as if the music fit perfectly into the receptors of the cells that process music in my brain. What’s more I just knew this piece epitomized how I felt about Spring.

That Spring, of my senior year in high school, I listened to it incessantly. In the fall I left for Purdue University, where all my brothers had gone, to study computer science, which all my friends were going to study. I lasted three days before changing my major to English. At the end of the semester, I transferred to a local extension of Indiana University and lived at my parent’s house during the Spring semester. Scarlatti got me through that period. In the fall I transferred to the main campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, and ended up in a huge, hi-rise dorm. My dorm-mates were local drongos, out to get drunk, sow their seed, party till they puked, and listen to mind-numbingly loud rock music. (I’m not against Rock music, it’s just hard to appreciate it at four in the morning the day before an exam.)

In the spring semester of the next year, I transferred to a French language-speaking dorm, and I had changed majors again to French literature. This little dorm sat in the middle of a quiet little meadow through which ran a small stream. The grounds were filled with flowering dogwoods, redbud Judas, hawthorn, and quince bushes. My dorm was co-ed and my dorm mates majored in languages, music, art, journalism, dance and literature. For the first time in my life, when I turned on my classical music people would walk in and say things like “Oh, that’s nice what is it?” Or even more astounding “Oh, so you’re a fan of Scarlatti, too?

You cannot imagine the relief when, after years of feeling like a freak, I finally found a community of people who shared my tastes and interests. I was able to understand how homosexuals must feel when they move to San Francisco or XYY chromosomal men feel when they join the Navy SEALS.

Scarlatti starts the sonata in D major with a little flourish that ends with the pianist performing an incredibly fast trill. Then it launches off into a rhythm played at a tempo to which it would be impossible to dance without bursting into flames. Sonatas (meaning “sounded” as opposed to “sung”) evolved out of dance tunes. Scarlatti drives along at this breathtaking speed and then just stops. Then he begins again, this time varying the melody a range higher, and making it sound even more meticulous. Then he pauses, before launching off in another direction. I haven’t been able to count how many times he does this tonight, because of familial interruptions, but he does it without sounding repetitious. Of course, since it is such a short piece-maybe 2 or 3 minutes-you don’t get tired of it.

At the risk of sounding a bit like Forest Gump, the pieces on this album are like a box of wonderful bon bons. Each one carries within it a short sweet musical idea that completely absorbs you for a while and then fades away, leaving you with a nice warm feeling. I told my youngest daughter, Simone, that this piece reminds me of Spring and she said “Oh, yes. It sounds like butterflies. Or insects running around.”

Writing this and other sonatas for harpsichord must have enlivened Scarlatti as well. In his 72 years on this earth, he managed to compose over 600! I will write about a few more during the next couple of days.

I wish there were some way of being to reach back over the centuries to talk with the people of the past. The first person I would contact, had I that power, would be Domenico Scarlatti. I would just thank him for his wonderful Sonata in D Major and tell him that tomorrow I’ll be listening to it again.

Biography of Scarlatti

Download MP3s or buy CD of Horowitz Plays Scarlatti on Amazon

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

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