Who was Domenico Scarlatti?
Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was an illustrious Italian composer whose prodigious work defined all lines of early classical music despite his style being highly baroque-based. His father, Alessandro Scarlatti, had considerable influence over him in his early years that heightened Domenico’s interest and passion for the subject. Walking in the shadow of a renowned musician seemed like a daunting task to Domenico at first, but he went on to make a mark so permanent that it changed the face of music forever. Like his father, Domenico was a composer of great integrity, taste and fecundity. Some of his indelible works were the harpsichord pieces that happened to be one of the most novel productions of his career. His thematic development and taste in music also got him to compose a wide variety of keyboard sonatas, operas, concertos and even cantatas. As the ‘Maestro di Capalla’; a name he inherited from his father, he went on to play for the Royals and rose to eminence. His prominent works were studied centuries later by upcoming musicians who felt the magnitude of his music and were greatly influenced by his works. Some of his unforgettable pieces were the ‘Narciso’ and more than 500 harpsichord sonatas that had gypsy, and modern dance rhythm influences.
Childhood And Early Life
Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was the sixth born of the celebrated composer Alessandro Scarlatti and his wife Antonia Anzaloni. He was born in the cushy town of Naples in the early kingdom of Naples on 26th October 1685. Little is known about the childhood of Domenico Scarlatti and many theories suggest that he probably studied music and developed an interest for it through his father. He was also the younger brother to another noted musician, Pietro Filippo Scarlatti. There are also theories that suggest that young Domenico studied music under Francesco Gasparini, Antonio Vivaldi and began his lifelong associations with Corelli who later went on to greatly influence Domenico’s styles and skills of music. Domenico’s father, who was then ‘Maestro di Capalla’ (the director of music) at the Royal courts and chapels, was a cardinal composer at his time.
At fifteen, Domenico was accorded a place as a professional organist at the Royal chapel with the push and help of his father. After a couple of years, Alessandro travelled to Florence to further his musical career and urged his son to pursue his career as an organist and even take over his position in Naples. It was around this time that the talented Domenico revised and reproduced Carlo Francesco’s opera ‘Irene’ for a debut performance at Naples. After this, Domenico went on to continue as an organist at chapel, till the year 1704, when he decided to leave his position and return to his father in Rome.
Domenico followed his father, Alessandro, back to Rome where he decided to stay on even after his father returned to Naples to pursue his former position at the chapel. It was here that Domenico, in his first big break, was summoned and accorded the place of ‘Maestro di Capalla’ to an exiled royal who was known to the world as ‘Maria Casimara’ of Poland. He was dutifully asked to compose operas and serenetas for the Queen till the year of 1713. Domenico Scarlatti also took up another part time job, where he served as the assistant of the ‘Maestro di Capalla’ of the Capalla Giulia for the next five years. Soon after, the head of the Capalla Giulia perished and Domenico was accorded the head of the chapel. In the same year of 1714, Scarlatti started associating himself with the Portuguese that proved to be a milestone in his rapid career. He was asked to compose a piece by the Portuguese ambassador, the ‘Marquis de Fontes’ in honor of a new member being born in the royal family. He was successful in creating and composing many of his novel pieces, heavily influenced by the styles of his father and the famous Vivaldi. In the year 1738, he came up with his famous ‘30 essercizi’ (exercises) which was ecstatically received all over Europe. This work consisted of thirty sonatas each making it a musical masterpiece at the time.
Scarlatti was appointed as the new ‘Mestre de Capela’ (director of the chapel) for the Royal, Portuguese family under the rule of King Joao the Fifth. Apart from composing unique pieces for the court, he was also asked to teach music to the various royal members. It is here that Scarlatti met Princess Maria Barbara who later went on to becoming Scarlatti’s celebrated patroness for the rest of his life. On May 15th 1728, Scarlatti married young Maria Catalina Gentili in a private ceremony in Rome and went on to father six children from this marriage. In the summer of 1739, after delivering her last of six children, Scarlatti’s wife perished and he remarried the same year. Scarlatti fathered four more children with his new bride, Anastasia Cadiz.
Death And Legacy
Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti died on 23rd July 1757 in Madrid at the age of 71. The cause of his death is unknown even to this day. His descendants still live on in Madrid and his legacy was never forgotten, as he was a prime, classical composer of his time that went on to influence a myriad of composers such as Chopin, Horowitz, Bela Bartok and Schenker even after a century. His simple approach to music combined with his heritage and folkloric influences made his works legendary.