A RADICAL VIRATION
I, Don Domingo Escarlati, neighbor of this Court and a native of the city of Naples (…).
The illustrious neighbor of the Madrid street Ancha de San Bernardo, who signed in 1741 the promise of dowry in favor of his second wife – the Cadiz Anastasia Jiménez – was none other than Domenico Scarlatti , music teacher of María Bárbara de Braganza . Such a precious position had been entrusted to him at the beginning of the 1720s, when Domenico moved to Portugal as a chapel master of the court of King João V. The years at the service of the Portuguese princess and then also of her husband, Fernando VI , allowed him to lead a comfortable life until his death, although surely much more withdrawn than what he had known in his Italian stage.
Indeed, Naples constituted in the 18th century one of the main musical centers of Europe and Alessandro Scarlatti was one of the most prolific and renowned opera composers of the moment. Son of this, Domenico grew up in a family atmosphere closely linked to opera and theater: singers, composers and theatrical entrepreneurs coexisted under the overwhelming personality of the head of the family who, of course, did everything in his power to secure your child a fixed position. Reason, among others, for which he moved with him to Rome and for which two years later he sent Domenico to the Duchy of Venice , where he remained for four years. There he had the opportunity to get in touch with the famous castrato Nicolò Grimaldi “Niccolini” and with famous composers such as Francesco Gasparini, Antonio Vivaldi or Georg Friedrich Haendel. However, it is not his Venetian period that inspires the title of this album; In fact, little is known of those years, and the experience should not have been as fruitful as expected, since Domenico decides to return to the city of the popes in 1708.
In Rome , Domenico attended the accademie poetico-musicali , musical meetings sponsored by Cardinal Ottoboni where the best musicians who passed through the city. There he had the opportunity to meet virtuosos and composers such as Arcangelo Corelli or Thomas Roseingrave – who will play a decisive role in the dissemination of Scarlatti’s work years later. It was in those concerts where he came into contact with the Portuguese royal family and also where the young Domenico was competing on the keyboard with his strict contemporary Haendel (with the already known result: the Saxon achieved victory to the organ while the Neapolitan won the key). In short, a demanding social and cultural environment – sometimes very competitive – that perhaps did not fit with the personality of Domenico and that responded rather to parental aspirations.
For that reason, Portugal must have meant for Domenico a kind of creative liberation – sculpted by Alessandro’s death in 1725–. The transition from one peninsula to the other brand is more than a mere geographical distance: a radical turn in its production. As a chapel master of the Portuguese court he composed some operas at the beginning and even had the opportunity to make another trip to Rome in which he continued to meet personalities such as Johann Joaquim Quantz or the great Carlo Broschi castrate, “Farinelli”. But his role as a preceptor of the young princess María Bárbara reveals a private sphere in which to express himself without the need of large audiences or stages and a genre – that of the sonata for keys -, which he would not abandon never. Of course, if father and son could agree on something – one in vocal music, the other in instrumental – it is in the condition of prolific: Alessandro wrote a hundred operas and some 750 cantatas; Domenico, about 600 sonatas.
After María Bárbara’s wedding with the future Fernando VI in 1729, the Neapolitan moved to Sevilla , where Felipe V had settled for health reasons. Scarlatti, whose activity alternated classes of harpsichord and key or chamber recitals, could already perceive there the animosity that the queen, Isabel de Farnesio, showed towards the prince. Isabel could not bear the idea that the heir to the throne was not her son but of Philip V’s first wife and did her best to relegate the princes to the background. The return of the court to Madrid in 1733 did not improve the situation. On the contrary: in 1737 Isabel made Farinelli come with the task of directing the operas and projecting the splendor of the Madrid court in the rest of Europe. Apparently he tried to provoke the confrontation between the new star and Scarlatti, a game that the famous castrato did not lend itself to. The friendship between the two Italians was reflected in various paintings and prints that show them walking or playing together in a boat, key included. It is a mystery and it is difficult to admit that we have not received much more vocal music from the pen of Scarlatti considering its formation, so linked to opera, and the presence so close to the most famous voice in the Europe of the moment.
In any case, being dedicated to the code for so many years allowed him to explore the expressive possibilities of an instrument that, on the other hand, was growing and evolving. The latest news and the first pianos arrived at the court. In this context, advantageous but reserved for the small royal circle, Scarlatti’s sonatas were composed.
SOME SONATS … DIFFERENT
But attention! Among that more than half a thousand sonatas of unquestionable harpsichordistic language, of great harmonic richness, bright, lyrical or virtuosity, a small group timidly appears that has little to do with the rest: it is mainly the sonatas K. 73, K. 77, K. 79/80, K. 81 and K. 88-91.
Graphically, writing is the first thing that attracts attention, since these sonatas have a tiple line and a low partially encrypted , which suggests that they were destined for a < b> melodic instrument with accompaniment of the continuous bass. In fact, they tend to play violin or flute, and even mandolin, the latter decision that nothing should be surprising. In the 80s, a manuscript with a collection of 18th-century Italian music was discovered at the Arsenal Library in Paris, when the mandolin was a tremendously popular instrument. The indication “Sonatino per Mandolino e Cembalo of the sign. Scarlatti ” at the beginning of one of the sonatas (precisely one of ours, K. 89), with separate parts for tiple and bass, historically justifies this practice. The idea that these pieces were not conceived for a key is corroborated by the presence, in sonatas such as K. 88 and K. 91, of certain punctual unattachable chords with one hand to the key and yet possible to the violin or mandolin (although not precisely natural, which could also be due to the fact that Domenico was not a violinist; it would not be the only music he wrote uncomfortably for stringed instruments).
The other big difference of this set with respect to the best known corpus of sonatas is its formal structure : compared to the binary form in one movement, these sonatas oscillate between the two and the four movements, alternating slow and rapids in a balance that sometimes approaches the sonata da chiesa (as is the case with the sonata K. 88, with a leak in the second movement) and usually the sonata da camera established by Corelli. In them we find dances like the minuet and the gavota, and many of the allegros are actually gigas.
Finally, the language that runs through these sonatas is far from obeying the topic of Phrygian cadence or reminiscences of popular music and guitar. Perfect connoisseur of the counterpoint, Scarlatti would break his rules again and again in the later sonatas, introducing elements such as parallel fifths or hand crossings, and taking directions practically impossible to anticipate. However, the sonatas included in this recording respond to the most orthodox baroque and strictly obey the rules of composition from the continuous bass. Would they serve, perhaps, a pedagogical purpose? Would they be part of the teachings that the young princess Maria Barbara received? Or would they easily accommodate those chamber interpretations enjoyed by princes?
LIVE RED MANUSCRIPTS
Whatever their function, the style of these sonatas has led scholars to describe them as “archaic” within Scarlattian production, without even knowing the date of composition, a matter still to be deciphered.
Here is another of the mysteries that accompany the figure of Domenico Scarlatti: the whereabouts of his autograph manuscripts, because today none is preserved. The first and only sonatas who saw the light in the author’s life did so thanks to that young Thomas Roseingrave, who had previously disseminated Scarlatti’s first operas in England after their meetings in Rome, now responsible for the first edition of the thirty < i> Essercizi per gravicembalo (1738-1739). Thus, when Domenico dies in Madrid on July 23, 1757, he leaves behind a huge collection of manuscripts that had not had occasion to reach the public and that had only been enjoyed in a closed private environment in Spain or Portugal.
Por fortuna la reina, probablemente muy consciente del valor de la colección que ya atesoraba y de que el genio continuaba creando, decide entre 1752 to 1757 hacer un providencial encargo: trece volúmenes de sonatas de Scarlatti fueron meticulosamente copiados en gran formato. A estas series de sonatas, espaciadas y ricamente decoradas con tinta de colores, se unieron dos volúmenes copiados en 1742 y 1749 (este incluso con ilustraciones en oro para los títulos y anotaciones). Los quince volúmenes estaban elegantemente encuadernados en piel de Marruecos, con los escudos de armas de España y Portugal en relieve de oro.
A treasure that in 1835 was acquired by the Nazionale Marciana Library of Venice. Paradoxically, that Venice that failed to retain or employ Scarlatti in life since then houses the most important source of its legacy. The fifteen volumes, known as “ the manuscripts of Venice “, collect 496 sonatas. Those numbered as XIV and XV are actually the oldest ones, so volume XIV of the Venice collection is the one copied in 1742 and the one containing the sonatas of this recording. Another fifteen volumes that were copied between 1752 and 1757, partly by the same copyist and duplicating practically the previous ones, constitute the second main source, conserved in the Palatine Library of Parma. But in them neither our sonatas with low encryption nor the rich color decorations appear.
“ Venezia 1742 ” means, therefore, a unique and distinct set. And what we want in this recording is to turn that richness of the manuscript into a live sound that only conveyed the real admiration. Venice, the city of canals that reflect colorful facades and the interiors dressed in Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese, also houses Scarlattian jewels adorned with suggestive red ink . Red the titles and, curiously, the figures of those lows that represent, in short, the sustenance of this album.
FROM CHARLES AVISON TO LA TEMPESTAD
Imagining how the rhythmic emphasis of Scarlatti’s sonatas sounds on other instruments, beyond the key or other keyboards, can be a temptation difficult to overcome. It was for us and should have been, also, for those who had in their hands some of the hot manuscripts, fresh out of the oven, in the eighteenth century.
Because, at this point, a new mystery emerges: what happened to all those known that Scarlatti had a chance to find in Rome or Venice? Did you maintain contacts with other European composers, such as Thomas Roseingrave, once at the service of the court in Madrid? What happened to the bridges laid to London? How is it possible that some of the sonatas that are only preserved in the Venice manuscript today ran through England as early as 1744 (supposedly even earlier)?
The truth is that Charles Avison, a little musician who moved away from his hometown, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, soon joined the fans and defenders of Domenico Scarlatti in England. And in 1744 he published twelve concerts for string taking as sources the edition of the sonatas performed by Roseingrave and “some movements of a manuscript”: precisely movements of the sonatas K. 81, K. 88, K. 89 and K. 90! (Apparently Francesco Geminiani might have to do with the arrival of these manuscripts in English territory.)
“Twelve Concerto’s [sic] in Seven Parts for Four Violins, one Alto Viola, a Violoncello, & a Thorough Bass, done from two Books of Lessons for the Harpsichord. Composed by Sigr. Domenico Scarlatti with additional Slow Movements from Manuscript Solo Pieces, by the same Author. Dedicated to Mrs. Bowes […] Printed for the Author, by Joseph Barber in Newcastle, and Sold by the musick Shops in town.”
We do not know if Domenico got to know about these Concerti or if he gave his approval, but the procedure followed by Avison showed absolute freedom: each concert had four movements; Avison gathered some bipartite sonatas in the same tone and interspersed some of the movements of the sonatas with continuum of the manuscript, adapting the tonality or the original tempi if necessary, and writing both the required instrumental parts as Some of the movements. With these arrangements, Avison expanded Scarlatti’s fame throughout northern England and translated the harpsichordistic language into one of the most popular genres at the time: the concerto grosso.
De vuelta al siglo XXI, los arreglos que aquí presenta La Tempestad se ciñen a la concepción original de las piezas, respetando el número y orden de los movimientos dentro de las sonatas, tal y como aparecen en el manuscrito. Como curiosidad, por ejemplo, cabe decir que la sonata K. 79 carece de cifrado en el bajo, mientras que la K. 80 sí lo tiene; pero ambas aparecen emparejadas como una única sonata (Sonata XLV) en el manuscrito de Venecia.
The procedures that have been followed are simple: distribution of the tiple line between two instruments and writing of the intermediate lines (K. 73, K. 80, K. 88, K. 91), sometimes taking as a model some of the violinistic resources used by Avison (K. 90); conversely, leaving the strings to carry out the continuum while the right hand of the key continues with its original line (this is the case of the trio in the Minuetto of K. 73); distribution of the parts, that is, a mere instrumentation propitiated by the superposition of short motifs and short answers (K. 81, escape from K. 88, K. 89). To give variety to the ensemble, some of the sonatas have been reserved for the flute, thus preserving the original and more habitual conception (tiple and continuous bass), but with the profusely ornamented upper line (K. 77, elaborated by our flute player, Guillermo Peñalver ). All this, combined with a greater or lesser game in the realization of the continuum, has allowed us to complete the drawing of the two original lines, color it as we please and, above all, expand our chamber repertoire including the name of one of the main pillars of the Iberian music of the 18th century: Domenico Scarlatti.
Sonatas, code, princesses … inevitably fleetingly remember the beginning of Rubén Darío’s famous Sonatina :
“The princess is sad … what will the princess have?
Sighs escape from your strawberry mouth,
that has lost laughter, that has lost color.
The princess is pale in her golden chair;
the sound keypad is mute,
and in a glass, forgotten, a flower faints. ”
Nothing further. Our princess took full advantage of her code, learned, enjoyed, listened to the genius, took care of her work and bequeathed it to us. Bright and bright music like red ink accompanied María Bárbara de Braganza for a lifetime.
Silvia Márquez Chulilla