Scarlatti, Domenico

Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples, Kingdom of Naples, in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. He was the sixth of ten children and a younger brother to Pietro Filippo Scarlatti, also a musician. He most likely first studied under his father, the composer and teacher Alessandro Scarlatti; other composers who may have been his early teachers include Gaetano Greco, Francesco Gasparini, and Bernardo Pasquini, all of whom may have influenced his musical style.

He became a composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples in 1701. In 1704, he revised Carlo Francesco Pollarolo’s opera Irene for performance at Naples. Soon after, his father sent him to Venice; no record exists of his next four years. In 1709 he went to Rome in the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire, where he met Thomas Roseingrave. Scarlatti was already an eminent harpsichordist: there is a story of a trial of skill with George Frideric Handel at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome where he was judged possibly superior to Handel on that instrument, although inferior on the organ. Later in life, he was known to cross himself in veneration when speaking of Handel’s skill.

In Rome, Scarlatti composed several operas for Queen Casimira’s private theatre. He was Maestro Di Cappella at St. Peter’s from 1715 to 1719. In 1719 he travelled to London to direct his opera Narciso at the King’s Theatre.

According to Vicente Bicchi (Papal Nuncio at the time), Domenico Scarlatti arrived in Lisbon on 29 November 1719. There he taught music to the Portuguese princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. He left Lisbon on 28 January 1727 for Rome, where he married Maria Caterina Gentili on 6 May 1728. In 1729 he moved to Sevilla, staying for four years and gaining a knowledge of flamenco. In 1733 he went to Madrid as music master to Princess Maria Barbara, who had married into the Spanish royal house. The Princess later became Queen of Spain, and as a result Scarlatti remained in the country for the remaining twenty-five years of his life, and had five children there. After the death of his first wife in 1742, he married a Spaniard, Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes. Among his compositions during his time in Madrid were a number of the 555 keyboard sonatas for which he is best known.

Scarlatti befriended the castrato singer Farinelli, a fellow Neapolitan also enjoying royal patronage in Madrid. The musicologist Ralph Kirkpatrick acknowledged that Farinelli’s correspondence provides “most of the direct information about Scarlatti that has transmitted itself to our day.” Domenico Scarlatti died in Madrid,at the age of 71. His residence on Calle Leganitos is designated with a historical plaque, and his descendants still live in Madrid.

 

Domenico Scarlatti – Wikipedia