1902 Encyclopedia > Domenico Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti
Italian composer
(1683-1757)




DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1683-1757), son of ALESSANDRO SCARLATTI, was born at Naples in 1683, and studied music first under his father and then under Gasparini. He began his career by composing a few operas, among them Amleto, produced at Eome in 1715, and remarkable as the earliest known attempt to pose Shakespeare's hero as the primo uomo of a dramma per la musica. But his real strength lay in the excellence of his performances on the harpsichord and organ. During Handel's first sojourn in Italy in 1708-9 D. Scarlatti was invited to a trial of skill with, him on both instruments at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni, and all present decided that the harpsichord performances terminated in a drawn battle, though Handel had a decided advantage on the organ. The justice of the verdict cannot be doubted; for, whenever Scarlatti was afterwards praised for his organ-playing, he used to cross himself devoutly and say, " You should hear Handel! "

On the death of Bai in 1715 D. Scarlatti was appointed maestro di cappella of St Peter's in Rome. In 1719 he conducted the performance of his Narciso at the King's Theatre in London, and in 1721 he played with great success in Lisbon. He then returned to Naples; but in 1729 he was invited to Madrid, with the appointment of teacher to the princess of Asturias, and remained there twenty-five years, returning in 1754 to Naples, where he died in 1757.

D. Scarlatti's compositions for the harpsichord are almost innumerable, and many of them have been published. In the character of their technique they are infinitely in advance of the age in which they were written and played; and many of them are difficult enough to tax the powers of the best performers of the present day.






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