Italian composer. The eldest son of Alessandro Scarlatti, he lived most of his life in Portugal and Spain in the service of the Queen of Spain. He wrote over 500 sonatas for harpsichord, short pieces in binary form demonstrating the new freedoms of keyboard composition and inspired by Spanish musical styles. Scarlatti was the most famous harpsichordist of his time, and his music provided the foundation for modern piano technique.
Scarlatti was born in Naples, and was taught by his father. In 1701 he was appointed organist and composer to the court at Naples, where his operas L'Ottavia restituita al trono and Il Giustino were produced in 1703. Sent by his father to Venice in 1705, he travelled by way of Florence, where he presented himself to Alessandro's patron, Ferdinando de' Medici. In Venice he met Francesco Gasparini, and probably studied with him. Moving to Rome, he is said to have engaged with Handel in a contest in harpsichord and organ playing, arranged by Cardinal Ottoboni. He was maestro di cappella to Queen Maria Casimira of Poland in Rome in 1709–14, and wrote seven operas for her, including Ambleto/Hamlet. He was at the Cappella Giulia, St Peter's, as assistant maestro from 1713, and as maestro di cappella in 1714–19.
He spent some time at Palermo before going to Lisbon in the service of the Portuguese court. He made intermittent visits to Italy, and in 1729 followed the Portuguese princess Maria Barbara to Madrid on her marriage to the Spanish crown prince. It was for her that he wrote most of his harpsichord music (over 550 ‘exercises’, now called sonatas, which exhibit an original approach to harmony and frequently demand great virtuosity). Harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick's modern edition gives each of these a number prefixed by the letter K.
WorksOpera operas, including La silvia (1710), Tolomeo ed Alessandro (1711), L'Orlando (1711), Tetide in Sciro, Ifigenia in Aulide (1713), Ifigenia in Tauride (1713), Amor d'un' ombra, Ambleto.
Chamber about 600 harpsichord pieces (30 of them published in his lifetime under the title Esercizi/Exercises), now commonly called sonatas.
Choral church music; cantatas; oratorios.
Scarlatti, Domenico Sonata
Scarlatti, Domenico Sonata K. 476, First Movement