Here’s Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K 352 which was originally written for the keyboard but it works really well on the guitar.
The Big Three Musical Giants Of 1685
Scarlatti was one of the 3 musical giants born in the same year, 1685.
The other 2 were Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
They were each very different and had vastly different careers but all 3 left an immense legacy and mark on music.
Bach and Handel were both German yet they never met and Bach traveled very little in his life while Handel traveled extensively, he even wound up living in London where he became the most successful opera composer and entrepreneur of his day.
He was kind of an 18th century Andrew Lloyd Webber (Opera being the most popular form of entertainment at the time) but like Bach he was a monster keyboard player as well
A Father’s Helping Hand – Tracing The Classical Footsteps of Domenico Scarlatti
I’ve actually been to Handel’s house in London, it’s a museum now and oddly sits next to Jimi Hendrix’s house which is also a museum…
Scarlatti on the other hand was Italian. He was born in Naples and like Handel traveled widely.
His father Alesandro was one of the most important Italian musicians and composers of his generation. He saw that young Domenico, along with his 9 siblings, got a thorough musical training.
At the age of 20, Alesandro sent Domenico to Venice to round out his musical education and during his time in Venice his father Alesandro moved to Rome presumably because work for musicians was more lucrative.
On completing his studies in Venice Domenico followed his father to Rome and established himself as a gun keyboard player and composer. He held several important posts giving him a vital role in Rome’s music making.
Could This Be The Birth Of The Instrument ‘Duel’?
The great patron of the arts, Cardinal Ottoboni, was famous for his weekly musical nights and concerts, so when Handel was touring Italy Ottoboni organised a keyboard “duel” between Handel and the local hotshot Scarlatti which was a huge event.
It’s not clear exactly how these duels were conducted but there was certainly an improvised “play off” where one of the players would play a phrase.
Sitting opposite on a second keyboard the other player would answer playing a responding phrase.
So going back and forth between the two players it would become an intense musical tennis match but this was between two of the greatest keyboard players of all time matching wits!
I witnessed such a musical duel between John McLaughlin (who some believe to be the world’s greatest guitar player) and the French electric violin player Jean Luc Ponty.
It was absolutely enthralling watching these masters of improvisation trading licks!
Narada Michael Walden Drumming To The Top
McLaughlin is such an inspirational musician, he inspired so many people wanting to reach their full musical potential.
I heard an interview with the great drummer Narada Michael Walden.
He said he was astonished when he saw John McLaughlin playing with his band “Mahavishnu Orchestra”.
He was so impressed and moved by their level of musicianship that he went backstage after the show to meet McLaughlin.
Narada told him… “I’d do anything, I’d give anything to play at that standard”.
McLaughlin said that the drummer Billy Cobham was leaving the band and mentioned that Narada was welcome try out.
Narada jumped at the chance and described how inspirational it was to work with and be around McLaughlin and his time and experience with McLaughlin made him the great musician that he become – his career was Stella.
He went on to produce acts like George Benson, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey to name just a few.
Scarlatti and The Royal Court
Back to Scarlatti…
while in Rome Domenico made quite a reputation for himself, in which he was then proposed to move to Portugal working at the Royal Court.
He performed a range of roles in Lisbon and one of those roles was to teach the 12 year old princess Maria Barbara the keyboard and continued to do so for the rest of his life, it was actually quite propitious because she was to become the Queen of Spain.
It was due to Maria Barbara that we have Scarlatti’s 555 sonatas.
She insisted that he write them down and she had them published.
A Sonata is a piece of instrumental music that is played (or sounded) as opposed to sung.