On today's date in 1757, the Italian composer and harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti died in Madrid. He was 71 years old, and for the last 38 years of his life had been employed at the court of Princess Maria Barbara, first in her native Portugal, and then, when the Princess married the heir to the Spanish throne, in Madrid.
Although Domenico could very well have stayed in Italy and become a famous opera composer like his father, Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico spent the better part of his life composing over 600 virtuoso sonatas for Maria Barbara. Only a handful of these were published during his lifetime. In the 19th century, Liszt and Brahms took the trouble to hunt down additional Scarlatti sonatas in manuscript, but the bulk of them remained unpublished and unknown until a complete edition was published in the 20th century.
While not coming anywhere close to matching Scarlatti's output, one 20th century American composer, the Philadelphia-born Vincent Persichetti, composed ten harpsichord sonatas of his own. Like Scarlartti, Persichetti was a virtuoso keyboard performer, and wrote showcase pieces for the piano and organ in addition to the harpsichord.
The growing number of modern-day harpsichordists has meant that in addition to the wealth of old music for the instrument, an increasing number of contemporary composers have followed Persichetti's example, and are writing new works for this old instrument.
Music Played in Today's Program
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757) Sonata in c, K. 363 Elaine Comparone, harpsichord Laurel 838
Vincent Pershichetti (1915 - 1987) Sonata No. 4 Elaine Comparone, harpsichord Laurel 838
On This Day
1796 - Swedish composer Franz Berwald, in Stockholm
1866 - Italian opera composer Francesco Cilea, in Palmi, Calabria
1916 - American composer Ben Weber, in St. Louis, Mo.
1757 - Italian composer and harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti, age 71, in Madrid
1983 - French composer Georges Auric, age 84, in Paris
1982 - John Harbison: "Variation" for clarinet, violin and piano, at the Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico, by clarinetist David Satz, violinist Rose Mary Harbison, and pianist Ursula Oppens
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.