Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti was born this day in 1685, the same year as Bach and Handel.  He spent most of his life composing liturgical music.  With a few exceptions, most of it was uninspired.

Age 60, Scarlatti retired from his day job and began composing for the keyboard.  Harpsichords were well-developed and common at the time; the earliest pianos were beginning to appear.  I remember the day when I was 14 and my piano teacher first put a Scarlatti sonata in front of me—“Try this.  I think you might like Scarlatti.”  I never guessed he was a Baroque composer.  To me, the music sounded nothing like Bach.  Vaguely Spanish, with spare construction and dissonances that sounded contemporary.

Scarlatti’s 555 keyboard sonatas are fun to play, fun to listen to, sometimes beautiful, often witty.  He has been called the father of modern keyboard technique.

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