Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) – Sonata in C major K159

Our man Domenico was born in Naples, Italy. And yet his life is strongly associated with Spain. This is probably because around 1720 he settled in Lisbon with the job of maestro of the royal chapel. His principal student there was Princess Maria Barbara. When Princess Maria married the heir to the Spanish throne, Scarlatti moved with her to Madrid where he spent his remaining life.

This is important because Scarlatti is primarily known for his over 550 single movement keyboard sonatas, all of which (I’ve read) were written for this single student.

Ralph Kirkpatrick, in his 1953 publication on Scarlatti, concluded that nearly 400 of the sonatas were to be grouped by two; one slow, one fast, each in the same key similar to a Baroque suite. Some others were to be grouped in threes. If this is true, Scarlatti had already conceived of a multi-movement sonata. Consider Beethoven’s Appassionata; the first and last movements are sonata-allegro forms, with the middle movement in variation form.

Some of Scarlatti’s sonatas, like the one programmed here, can by easily viewed in a sonata-allegro form. However, sonata-allegro form was developed by later composers. Though Scarlatti’s sonatas were not designed with this form in mind, his musical knack seems to have placed him ahead of his time.