Domenico Scarlatti


Scarlatti, born in the same year as Bach and Handel, was the revolutionary of the three in several ways.

It is the task of this website to unearth this treasure and make it accessible.

As for the sources to which I have referred, there are essentially four, namely three original text editions and also a few facsimile prints of Scarlatti's manuscripts. The bad habit of late Romanticism, where all possible (and impossible) pianists wanted to improve Scarlatti's sonatas "and adapt them to the demands of the time" by adding octaves, adding thirds and sixths and even - listen and be amazed - by inserting cadenzas they had invented themselves, the results of the Liszt School, which was unspeakable in this respect, fortunately belongs to the past. One could only speak of Scarlatti paraphrases here with great benevolence. What Scarlatti had in mind is clearly and unmistakably written down by himself in the original text and thus documented for all time and does not require any of the "improvements" mentioned, which were made by people who had no idea of Scarlatti's intentions and meaning.

The first of my sources was the internet edition of the Canadian harpsichordist John Sankey. Unfortunately, this edition has some disadvantages, some of which have to do with the notation program used. This program has no pause characters, so the relevant places are simply left blank. Especially for the music lover who is theoretically not too well versed, this means guesswork in many places and can easily lead to misinterpretations. Another disadvantage is that the tones e sharp, b sharp, c flat and f flat do not seem to exist in this program, not to mention double sharps. As a result, enharmonic tones had to be noted, which in many cases led to confusing results. An example from

K25 (Sonata in F sharp minor) 

to the score

should clarify this. First Sankeys, then the correct notation:

Example K25

Example K25

If you accept these disadvantages, this edition has the advantage that it can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet. However, it only extends to K176. Perhaps it was realized in 2000 that the notation program used was insufficient. However, one may wonder why one of the complete notation programs was not used. (Maybe too expensive?)

Another point of criticism of this edition is this: Mr. John Sankey did not stick to the original text at certain points, but instead built in traps, that is, presumably knowingly made mistakes, although this edition claims to be an original text edition. There is probably no discussion about the term original text: it concerns the faithful reproduction of the manuscript musical text. Perhaps he did so in order to be able to prove at some point that someone, without naming Sankey's name, pretends to be his own copy, but without realizing that he is thereby exposing himself to be a forger. The fact that such an approach cannot deceive the connoisseur but disregard the composer makes this edition and its publisher again questionable.

The same goes for his midi recordings, which are also available on the Internet, which were definitely worth studying carefully, especially where the exemplary treatment of the trills is concerned. His insights into the treatment of the trills coincide with mine. Unfortunately, there are also error traps installed there in many places, and probably on purpose. And that by someone who himself writes that the spread of Scarlatti's music is one of his highest goals!

As one of the many examples I cite measures 13-16 from the

Sonata K94.

First the score, then the midi recording:

Example K94

Note the subtle yet gross differences. The tone in measure 15 of the midi recording is just as misleading as the entire measure 16. It remains inexplicable why someone spoils Scarlatti in such a way. I can hardly imagine that this is a careless mistake. As an expert, I declare that in this case neither the midi recording nor the score are correct versions. The correct version is this:

I also had two four-volume editions of selected Scarlatti's sonatas at my disposal, one of which is exemplary and the other under the motto "You can't be better".

The Hungarian edition (Edition Musica, Budapest) is exemplary. A selection has been made from all four periods in Scarlatti's work. One or the other will miss the one or the other sonata - every choice is a choice. Sonatas that are controversial in terms of music theory (more on this later) were not shied away from, but understood and published.

That cannot really be said of the edition of Edition Schott. It seems that Scarlatti's particularly conspicuous sonatas were not understood and somehow classified as not tenable in terms of music theory and were therefore avoided like the plague. It is and remains a mystery until you consider that the lack of need was obviously at work here. So: good, good, most good. The best boy in the class! That's a shame, but also very typical. At least this edition contains some sonatas that complement the Hungarian edition, which I without hesitation consider far more important and honest than the Schott edition.

A very exemplary complete edition of the original text is provided by Kenneth Gilbert and published by Heugel - Paris. Edited with great care, it is to be regarded as the most important source today. It is based on the Venice manuscripts and refers in various places to the deviations from the Parma manuscripts. The original manuscripts are unfortunately lost. It is just a shame and incomprehensible that with such care and so much goodwill, Scarlatti's method of key signatures was not adopted. It seems as if no one cares about the reasons that have moved Scarlatti to his way of key signatures in many sonatas (mainly up to around K150, but also occasionally later). In the foreword of this edition it is stated quite succinctly:

"... interpreters and musicologists are demanding more and more urgently a source-critical new edition of the 555 sonatas that have survived, based on today's editorial standards."

An indication of this phenomenon would have been in place. But more about that later.

As the original source, I had access for some time to a small collection of facsimile prints of Scarlatti's manuscripts, i.e. the copies made for the Spanish Queen Maria Barbara, which are kept in Venice and Parma. It should be clear that studying these facsimile prints was very instructive. Here Scarlatti's intentions become clear in a wonderful way. Aside from the enchantment these manuscripts bring about, which open up a bygone world on their own, they are the only well that cannot be reinterpreted. What it says there was written down by Scarlatti himself. And therefore more valid than all later editions combined. However, it must be said that Scarlatti's style of notation has not always been happy in our eyes today. He wrote so that the note c' was the dividing line between the two staves. Probably because of avoiding auxiliary lines as much as possible. In the following examples this has been transformed into a more modern notation where necessary.