Scarlatti, Alessandro

views updated May 21 2018


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 (170309) 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) 11:14821506. 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), 243248. 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) 549567. g. g. jones, "Alessandro Scarlattis Il Ciro, " Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 1 (1978), 225237. d. poultney, "Alessandro Scarlatti" in International Dictionary of Opera 2 vols. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 11841187. d. swale, "The Judith Oratorios of Alessandro Scarlatti," Miscellanea Musicologica 9 (1977), 145155.

[w. c. holmes]

Scarlatti, (Petro) Alessandro (Gaspare)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Scarlatti, (Petro) Alessandro (Gaspare) (b Palermo, 1660; d Naples, 1725). It. composer, specially important in development of opera and considered founder of so-called Neapolitan school. Taken to Rome 1672, said to have studied with Carissimi, and wrote first opera there 1679. Engaged by Queen Christina of Sweden, then living in Rome, as choirmaster and cond., 1680–4, for her private th. Court cond. to Viceroy of Naples, 1684–1702 and from 1708. Alternated between Rome and Naples for rest of life, in various court and church appointments. Contribution to opera was liberation of dramatic expression. Est. the da capo aria, first in Teodora (1692), the opera in which orch. ritornello is supposedly used for the first time. The so-called ‘It. ov.’ was introduced in 1696 in a revival of Dal male il bene. In 1685, in L'Olimpia vendicata, occurs the first recorded instance of acc. recit. His greatest opera is reckoned to be Mitridate Eupatore (1707), comp. for Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, but a failure on its f.p. in Venice. In his late Rome years, the general enthusiasm for opera, stimulated by Scarlatti, overcame all ecclesiastical objections. His 115 operas incl. only one comic opera, Il trionfo dell'onore (Naples 1718). Sixty-four survive, wholly or in part, of which revivals show superb craftsmanship and lofty invention, perhaps the best known being the last, La Griselda (1721). He also wrote some 20 oratorios, 10 masses, several settings of Stabat Mater, etc., over 40 motets, over 600 solo cantatas with basso continuo and 60 with other instr., some 30 chamber cantatas for 2 vv., 28 serenatas, several madrigals, 12 chamber concs., various sonatas, and hpd. pieces, incl. variations on La Folia. Father of Domenico Scarlatti.

Scarlatti, Alessandro

views updated Jun 08 2018

Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660–1725) Italian Baroque composer who laid the foundations of the musical idioms that shaped music to the time of Beethoven. The founder of Neopolitan opera, Scarlatti established the opera seria style. He wrote more than 100 operas, including Mitridate Eupatore (1707) and Il Tigrane (1715).