Important composer of the baroque period; b. Palermo, May 2, 1660 (christened Pietro Alessandro Gasparo);d. Naples, Oct. 24, 1725. As a boy of 12 he became a student of carissimi in Rome, where his first known opera was produced in 1679 and where he was for a time in charge of music for Queen Christina of Sweden. He was again in Rome (1703–09) as maestro di cappella at St. Mary Major. In 1710 he was appointed maestro to the royal court at Naples, a post he held for life. Scarlatti wrote more than 115 operas (50 of which are extant) and more than 500 chamber cantatas for one or two voices and harpsichord. He founded the so-called Neapolitan school of opera, whose chief stylistic characteristics are florid and elegant melodic lines, extensive use of the da capo aria form, and rapid, staccato recitatives. He also influenced the development of the Italian overture (fast section, slow section, fast section). Most, though not all, of his church music is inferior to his operas and cantatas. It is set in either of two styles: the "old style" in imitation of Palestrinian counterpoint; or the prevalent operatic style of Scarlatti's day. Research by Beekman C. Cannon of Yale University indicates that Scarlatti was apparently the first composer to set the complete, unaltered text of the St. John Passion. Because he composed in great haste his music is of uneven quality, but his best works rank among the baroque masterpieces.
Bibliography: e. j. dent, Alessandro Scarlatti, ed. f. walker (rev. ed. London 1960). e. hanley, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 11:1482–1506. f. a. d'accone, The History of a Baroque Opera: Alessandro Scarlatti's 'Gli equivoci nel sembiante' (Hillsboro 1985). l. damuth, "Interrelationships between the Operas and Datable Cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti" (Ph.D. diss. Columbia University, 1993). u. d'arpa, "La famiglia Scarlatti: nuovi documenti biografici," Recercare 2 (1990), 243–248. d. j. grout, e. hanley, and m. boyd, "(Pietro) Alessandro (Gaspare) Scarlatti" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 16, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 549–567. g. g. jones, "Alessandro Scarlattis Il Ciro, " Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 1 (1978), 225–237. d. poultney, "Alessandro Scarlatti" in International Dictionary of Opera 2 vols. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 1184–1187. d. swale, "The Judith Oratorios of Alessandro Scarlatti," Miscellanea Musicologica 9 (1977), 145–155.
[w. c. holmes]
Scarlatti, (Petro) Alessandro (Gaspare)