Other Classical Composers

  • Giovanni Battista Sammartini: 1700 – 15 January 1775
  • Pieter Hellendaal: 01/04/1721 – 19/04/1799
  • Johann Christian Bach: 05/09/1735 – 01/01/1782
  • Muzio Clementi: 24/01/1752 – 10/03/1832
  • Domenico Scarlatti: 26/10/1685 – 23/07/1757

Domenico Scarlatti (26/10/1685 – 23/07/1757) was born in Naples, Italy in the same year as Bach and Handel as the sixth child of Alessandro Scarlatti. Scarlatti senior was a renowned composer of Opera and Chamber music and is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of Opera. It was under the influence of his father that Domenico grew in a household permeated with music (Alessandro’s eldest son, Pietro Filippo, was also a musician but not active until Domenico was twenty, as choirmaster of the cathedral in Urbino).

Domenico was an early developer and was employed as composer and organist in the Chapel Royal in Naples aged just sixteen. His renown grew and he was variously employed in Venice and Rome before leaving for Lisbon to serve the King of Portugal as harpsichordist at the Royal Court and musical tutor to the King’s daughters.

When the eldest of the King’s children, Barbara of Portugal married Ferdinand VI of Spain in 1729, Domenico moved with her to Madrid where he remained, serving the Spanish court until his death.

Domenico has become best known for his prodigious output (around 550) works for the harpsichord which are challenging for the performer and were groundbreaking for the composer. Dynamic and rapid movements across the full range of the keyboard, dazzling arpeggios and a creative use of dissonance (click here) stand this composer apart from his contemporaries and place him firmly as a major influence for the new “Classical” style which grew out of the Baroque movement during the time of his career.

I believe that the creative use of dissonance on the part of Scarlatti is a clear link to Mozart and Beethoven who both used the technique of stress (through forcing the listener to instantly try and make sense of an unexpected or “wrong” chord) and release through the resolution of a dissonant chord to another that the listener would expect to hear.

Click here to hear 21 of Domenico’s sonatas for harpsichord.