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Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in A, K. 113–in leaps and bounds

I can always use an extra pair of hands to navigate the Baroque composer’s technically challenging sonata

It’s a real workout playing Domenico Scarlatti’s essercizi or sonatas. The impossible leaps, crossed hands, trills and syncopation that permeate the composer’s music require a daredevil to take on the challenge.

Scarlatti will sometimes defy a player to jump over 4 octaves (32 notes) with one finger in the left hand landing safely over the right, and in reverse, in rapid sequence. Safely, means, managing to find the correct note and not fumble. (A sports related spectacle)

But it’s not just a single note that has to zing in. A steady stream of 8 or more measures of hand over hand means the fingers have to reach their intended target at break neck speed. Try Allegrissimo, one of the fastest tempos in music, with Prestissimo being a close rival. In this time zone, you’re hearing your heart fibrillate.

Being a fool and chance taker all in one, I decided to go into the acrobatic arena and throw fate to wind.
It was late evening, almost time to surrender to the ghost of Scarlatti, paying homage to his virtuoso school of keyboard playing.

Putting aside all the technical demands the composer made on the player, he produced music that was pure joy with its gypsy laments, echoes of castanets, tambourines, flamenco guitars, and folkloric melodies.

Born in Naples, Domenico Scarlatti had relocated to Spain and became an employ in the Court of Madrid. In this capacity, he absorbed Spanish cultural elements that filtered directly into his compositions that were originally written for harpsichord.

Sonata in A Major, K. 113 is one of approximately 550, composed in two part binary form.

The great virtuoso pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, who championed the music of Domenico Scarlatti, talked about “fire and ice” dualities in approaching technically challenging war horse pieces.

He more than hinted that Scarlatti was a giant in his own time who produced monumental compositions.

In fact, Horowitz owned a copy of a book, whose author quoted Chopin on the subject of Scarlatti. (From Stephen P. Mizwa’s bio of Chopin)

“My colleagues, the piano teachers, are dissatisfied that I am teaching Scarlatti to my pupils. But I am surprised that they are so blind. In his music there are exercises in plenty for the fingers and a good deal of lofty spiritual food. If I were not afraid of incurring disfavor of many fools, I would play Scarlatti in my concerts. I maintain there will come a time when Scarlatti will often be played in concerts, and people will appreciate and enjoy him.”

Horowitz held up the book with a smile, believing that Chopin’s prophecy had been fulfilled.

4 thoughts on “Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in A, K. 113–in leaps and bounds”

  1. I find this all so astounding. You remind me so much of my mother when she was a young piano teacher putting her students through this magic.
    Your endearing descriptions of taking risks could have come right from her.
    The lessons of Scarlatti’s brialliance are not lost on me.
    I remain so thankful to have discovered you and all that you share.

    John Bidwell


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