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SCARLATTI ALESSANDRO: SINFONIE DA CONCERTO GROSSO E SINFONIE PER FLAUTO torrent


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Torrent Description
It was only in his youth that Alessandro Scarlatti enjoyed a degree of popular success equal to his reputation. Throughout his career there was an increasing gulf between the high opinion of his contemporaries and the actual success of his works. Before he was 20, the young Sicilian had impressed the most knowledgeable patrons in Rome with his rich melodic imagination, and after the remarkable success of Gli equivoci nel sembiante the Berninis entrusted to him the composition of L'honestà degli amori, a comic opera for their theatre with a libretto containing humorous allusions to the success of a musician who had come ‘from the limits of Christendom full of airs' (lines he took care not to set).

Scarlatti was perfectly conscious of his standing in a hierarchical society, but cultivated utopian ideals of breaking down barriers created by birth or income, to be realized through an understanding among superior spirits. The evidence suggests that an understanding of this nature characterized only his relationship with Queen Christina. Ferdinando de' Medici and Ottoboni were too concerned with the success of what they had commissioned to be gratified by recognition of their judgment, implied by the quality of the work even if it failed to arouse public enthusiasm. It is to Scarlatti's credit that the need to earn money imposed on him by ‘the heavy burden of a large family’ never led him to make the kinds of compromise or concession that might have gained him wider recognition.

The Arcadian Academy had the most to offer in the fulfilment of Scarlatti's ambitions. Enrolled at the same time were Pasquini and Corelli, musicians with whom he had shared Queen Christina's favour; and the academic assemblies provided an ideal arena for the poetical and musical tournaments to which Scarlatti rightly considered himself supremely suited. The form of the cantata was fertile territory for experimentation. His famous exchange with Gasparini was realized in the spirit of rivalry at the very highest level: in 1712 Gasparini, admitted to the Academy on Corelli's death, had paid homage to his colleague in Andate, o miei sospiri, al cor d'Irene, a piece devoted to the pains of one unlucky in love. Scarlatti was not content simply to reply by setting the same text as a ‘Cantata alla amicizia, fatta con idea humana’ (marked by harmonic subtleties to interest its accomplished recipient), but produced a second, highly sophisticated version, describing it as the ‘same cantata, on an inhuman idea’, proudly adding ‘it is not for every professor’.

Despite his unhappy experiences in Florence and Venice, Scarlatti retained his artistic integrity. This explains the judgment of F.M. Zambeccari, the music lover originally from Bologna, then living in Naples in Grimani's retinue: ‘he is a great man, so good indeed that he succeeds ill because his compositions are extremely difficult and in the chamber style, and so do not succeed in the theatre’. Not for the first time he was berated for subtleties above the heads of the general public, who loved the ‘cheerful stuff and saltarelli such as they get in Venice’. The bias is obvious, the more so since Zambeccari excused Scarlatti's cool reception but could not stomach the ‘knavish stuff in the Neapolitan language’ which perfectly matched popular taste. This was the key to Scarlatti's fate: here was a musician of genius who had to forgo the kind of praise from sensitive patrons like those who 20 years later would appreciate the ‘happy and original freaks’ of Domenico's astonishing sonatas.

However, Alessandro Scarlatti's reputation remained unchallenged: clear confirmation of this appears in Burney (Burney GN, 347) when he recounts that Hasse
could not think Durante, as a contrapuntist, deserved the place which M. Rousseau has given him in his dictionary; but said that it was old Scarlatti, whom he should have called le plus grand harmoniste d'Italie, c'est à dire du monde, the greatest master of harmony of Italy, that is, of the whole universe; and not Durante, who was not only dry, but baroque, that is, coarse and uncouth.
Burney adds, in a note, ‘M. Hasse's opinion of Alex. Scarlatti, corresponds exactly with that of Jomelli, who told me, at Naples, that his compositions for the church, tho' but little known, were the best of his productions, and perhaps the best of the kind’. Jommelli was only 11 when Scarlatti died and had arrived in Naples from his native Aversa in 1725; his evidence therefore indicates that Scarlatti's sacred music at least was studied with interest by the younger generation. In Naples, the ‘baroque’ Durante transformed 12 items from Scarlatti's cantatas into 12 Duetti da camera for use by singing teachers as a helpful contrast between the teacher's and the pupil's voice. The success of these duets gave the music of Scarlatti's cantatas an artificial after-life: in the middle of the 19th century the Marchese di Villarosa could claim that without them Scarlatti's name would have been consigned to oblivion. The pattern has persisted: although Alessandro Scarlatti is considered a composer of primary importance in all the literature, little attention is paid to his work, and even in recent explorations of the ‘early music’ repertory his music, for all its reputation, has played an exceedingly modest part.

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