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Domenico Scarlatti on Speed by Shirley Kirsten

I needed an extra pair of hands to navigate the Baroque composer's technically challenging sonata in A Major, K. 113 and my wish came true.

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Watch the repeat of the first section.

Video Editor: Aviva Kirsten;

Domenico Scarlatti on Speed:


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. With bated breath, I attempted to record Sonata K. 113 in the sanctity of my piano room. Talk about crash and burn scales and other finger jams. I exhausted three hours of Sony Hi Fi cassettes, and the dust was spreading far and wide.

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 in this genre, 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.

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Comment by Shirley Kirsten on February 22, 2011 at 10:46pm
Thanks, Rosemary.
Comment by Shirley Kirsten on February 22, 2011 at 10:46pm
Thanks, Rosemary..
Comment by Rosemary Lakovich on February 21, 2011 at 3:32pm
Comment by Shirley Kirsten on February 20, 2011 at 9:13pm
Thanks again, Rosemary..

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