It is by his extraordinary single-movement keyboard sonatas, or Essercizi
– over 550 of them – that Domenico Scarlatti, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, is best remembered today. ‘Elegant, lively, clever, brilliant in their virtuosity … rococo music of the finest type’ (Hugo Leichtentritt), a treasury of miraculous fantasy and invention, they are revolutionary and revolutionizing expressions of genius. Designed, the composer tells us, not to display ‘any profound learning, but rather an ingenious Jesting with Art’, the vitality of their imagination, the pungent audacity of their harmonic language, the tension of their displaced accents and cross-rhythms, the style and texture of their keyboard manner (with colouristic effects and extravagant three-dimensional leaps and changes of position that transform our whole conception of classical bass and treble registration), the flamboyance of their dynamic and kinetic energy is remarkable. They sound youthful. They aren’t. As Ralph Kirkpatrick comments in his famous study of the composer published forty years ago: ‘Unlike Purcell, Mozart, or Schubert, Domenico Scarlatti was not born with the gift of prophecy. Like Rameau, Haydn, or Verdi, he discovered his richest channels of inspiration in his old age … what looks like the development of a lifetime actually took place after Scarlatti was fifty, and largely after his sixty-seventh year!’ The Sonata in C minor, Kk11, comes from the printed Essercizi
of 1738/9; the B minor, Kk377, from a manuscript collection in a copyist’s hand, prepared for the Queen of Spain in 1754 (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice).
from notes by Ates Orga © 1998