Domenico Scarlatti

Italian composer and harpsichordist (Naples, 1685 – Madrid, 1757)

One of the major composers of the Baroque era, Domenico Scarlatti was renowned for his expressive and virtuosos sonatas for solo keyboard, considered 555 masterpieces. His rich and inventive corpus of work for harpsichord, served by a vivid and clear score, confirmed Scarlatti's status as one of the masters of this genre.

Son of the composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico rapidly followed his father's footsteps. At the age of 16, he worked as a composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples. At age 23, he was hired by Maria Casimira of Poland, in Rome and remained at her service for 5 years. During this time, he composed several operas and other works destined to the palace's private theatre. He then became assistant of Tommaso Bai, the choirmaster of Vatican, and would go on to succeed him. The same year, he also became  choirmaster for the ambassador of Portugal, as part of the Holy See. 

During one of his travels to Rome, he met renowned musicians such as Arcangelo Corelli and Georg Friederich Haendel, with whom it is said that Scarlatti would have engaged in a musical joust, mastering the harpsichord better than his german contemporary, while the later was still superior to him in his organ practice. This anecdote was nonetheless never verified. In 1724, Domenico Scarlatti settled in his position as choirmaster in Lisbon, at the service of Jean V, king of Portugal. Teaching the infant Maria Barbara, he would go on to follow her to Madrid after her union with the Spanish prince Fernando. He was appointed maestro de cámera upon their coronation in 1746.

In Madrid, he continued to compose sacred music, serenades for court's festivities and operas until he died in 1757. He was composer Antonio Soler's teacher for 4 years. During the last years of his life, he was so popular in Spain that his name was progressively changed to Domingo Escarlatti.

6 landmark dates in the life of Domenico Scarlatti 

• 1701: Composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples

• circa 1709: Encounter with Handel

• 1709-1714: Went to Rome at the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire

• 1715-1719: Choirmaster for the Ambassador of Portugal at the Vatican

• 1719: Choirmaster for the Portuguese royal family

• 1752-1756: Professor of the Spanish composer Antonio Soler

6 key works by Domenico Scarlatti

• 1703: Ottavia restituita al trono, his first opera in Naples

• 1711: Tolomeo, opéra

1713: Iphigénie en Tauride, opera

• vers 1715: Stabat mater, 10 voices + Miserere

• 1720: La contesa delle stagioni (serenata), for the queen of Portugal

• 1738: Essercizi per gravicembalo, 32 sonatas for solo keyboard