40 Sonatas for Classical Guitar

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Clear Note Publications, Dec 31, 2008 - Music
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The Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) are so common to the guitarist’s repertoire that one could easily assume that they were written originally for the instrument. In fact, despite the prodigious output of this composer, Scarlatti never composed for guitar. This is a bit surprising considering he spent much of his adult life on the Iberian Peninsula where the guitar (chitarra spagnola) was, at that time, enjoying considerable popularity. The following sonatas are transcriptions of a small portion of the 555 sonatas which Scarlatti composed for the keyboard. These works were most likely composed after 1720 when Scarlatti left his native Italy to take a post as chapelmaster at the court of King Joćo V of Portugal. One of his duties in this appointment was to tutor the daughter of the King, Maria Barbara, who would eventually become Queen of Spain. Scarlatti would follow her to Seville and then to Madrid. Maria Barbara was known as an accomplished harpsichordist, and it is quite possible that these sonatas were the product of her close relationship with the composer.

The first known catalogue of Scarlatti’s sonatas was compiled by Alessandro Longo (1864-1945). Though it remains an important historical document, this publication [D. Scarlatti, Opere Complete per Clavicembalo, (a cura di A. Longo) 10 vol. e 1 supplemento (Ricordi, Milano, 1906/10)] is largely considered antiquated by modern historians. Longo purposely regrouped the sonatas into suites and, in some cases, changed tempo indications and harmonies. A more commonly accepted catalogue of the Sonatas of Scarlatti was assembled by Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984). His catalogue [Ralph Kirkpatrick, Domenico Scarlatti (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1953)] attempted to order the sonatas chronologically and provided insight into how the works were grouped: often in pairs, sometimes in groups of 3 or 4 and some with multiple movements contained within. The following transcriptions were adapted from facsimile editions taken from the Biblioteca Nazionale in Venezia, and the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma and compiled by Kirkpatrick [Domenico Scarlatti, Complete Keyboard Works (edited by Ralph Kirkpatrick) 18 vol. (Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York and London, 1972)]. Each work is identified by both Kirkpatrick’s (K.) and Longo’s (L.) catalog numbers.

Within these sonatas lay a wealth of creativity and variety. Although most of them fall into the category of binary form, there exists great diversity in tone, tempo, and internal construction. Beyond the generic title Sonata, Scarlatti makes little use of the term as a unifying factor for his collection. Some works are to be played slowly and lyrically and thus have indications as Larghetto and Adagio e Cantabile, while others are meant to be played rapidly, having tempo indications as Allegro, Vivo, and Allegrissimo. Additionally, Scarlatti models some of his sonatas after common dance forms of his day titling some as Minuetto or Gavotta. Examples of all the above appear in this collection. Moreover, Scarlatti’s mastery of the keyboard and, in some cases, his disregard of common voice-leading and harmonic practices, have produced works of unique diversity with striking harmonies, sudden and unusual modulations, and passages of uncommon texture and virtuosity.


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Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 22
Section 23
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26

About the author (2008)

Surprisingly little is known about Scarlatti's life apart from legends and anecdotes. He was born in Naples, Italy, the sixth of ten children. Most likely he first studied under his father, Alessandro Scarlatti; other composers who may have been his early teachers include Gaetano Greco, Francesco Gasparini, and Bernardo Pasquini, all of whom seem to have influenced his musical style.

He became a composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples in 1701, and in 1704, he revised Pollaroli's opera Irene for performance at Naples. Soon after this his father sent him to Venice, but the four years there are a blank in the record. In 1709 he went to Rome in the service of the exiled Polish queen Maria Casimira; while in Rome he met Thomas Roseingrave who would later lead the enthusiastic reception of the composer's sonatas in London. Domenico was already a harpsichord-player of eminence, and there is a story that at a trial of skill with George Friderich Handel at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome he was adjudged perhaps superior to Handel on that instrument, although inferior on the organ. Later in life, he was known to cross himself in veneration, when speaking of Handel's skill.

Also while in Rome, Scarlatti composed several operas for Queen Casimira's private theatre. He was maestro di cappella at St Peter's from 1715 to 1719, and in the latter year came to London to direct his opera Narciso at the King's Theatre.

In 1720 or 1721 he went to Lisbon, where he taught music to the princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. He was at Naples again in 1725, but in 1729 went to Madrid as music master to the princess, who had married into the Spanish royal house. He remained in Spain for some twenty-five years. Maria Barbara became Queen of Spain. During this time he composed over five hundred keyboard sonatas. It is for these works that he is best remembered today.

Domenico Scarlatti died in Madrid, aged 71.


About the Arranger

American guitarist Andrew Zohn is recognized internationally for his work as a performer, instructor, and composer. He has performed concerts on five continents as a soloist and chamber musician. In addition to extensive touring throughout the United States, recent performances include venues in China, Argentina, Italy, Egypt, Malaysia, Germany, and the Netherlands. A recent critic has said: Zohn…easily demonstrated how he is one of the most sought after performers on the classical guitar as his fingers deftly plucked some of the most subtle of tones on the instrument.- The Star, Kuala Lumpur.

Since 1999, Dr. Zohn has served on the faculty of the Schwob School of Music (Columbus State University) in Georgia, where he directs the annual CSU Guitar Symposium. He has performed and taught at many of the world's most prestigious music festivals including the Festival of New Music (Central Conservatory of Music, China) the Guitar on the Mediterranean Guitar Festival (Italy), Sevilla Guitar Festival (Spain), Guitar Festival Changsha and Shenyang Festival (China), the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium (Germany), Borguitar Festival (Italy), the Guitar Foundation of America (USA), Festivale Emilia Romagna and Musica Ravenna (Italy), and GuitareMontreal (Canada). Students of Andrew Zohn have won prizes in dozens of international competitions including, among others, The Parkening International, The Guitar Foundation of America, The World Guitar Competition (Serbia), and The Asia International (Bangkok). Many of his students have been also been featured on the American National Public Radio program highlighting outstanding young musical talent From the Top.

Original compositions and transcriptions by Andrew Zohn are published through Clear Note Publications, Les Productions d'Oz, Canada, Tuscany publications (Theodore Presser), and FJH Publications. His recordings for Clear Note and Centaur Records have received wide acclaim from American Record Guide, Classical Guitar Magazine, GuitArt Magazine, Soundboard, Guitarra Magazine, and Rosewood Review.

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