Domenico Scarlatti

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was born in Napels on the 26th of October 1685 as the sixth of ten children to parents Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonia Anzalone. Alessandro is already by then a famous composer. It is not clear who taught Domenico music. Perhaps it was Francesco Gasparini, Bernardo Pasquini or even Antonio Vivaldi during his time spent in Venice.
Alessandro the father was for a time nominated as director of music at the basilica Santa Maggiore of Rome, and during this period Domenico worked there as his assistant between 1708 and 1709.
While in Rome, Domenico was appointed to the court of the Polish queen Maria Casimira de la Grange d’Anguien, who was at the time in exile there. He wrote a number of vocal works for her, including the opera "Tolomeo et Alessandro o vero La Corona disprezzata" (1711). In 1713 Domenico was appointed firstly as assistant director of music at the Cappella Giulia of St. Peters in Rome, and subsequently in 1714 as director of music.
Notably during the period in which Domenico was working and studying in Rome, he wrote many vocal and orchestral works for both secular and church clients. In addition Domenico seemed to be a gifted harpsichordist.
It was in these his younger years that Domenico met and became friends with G. F. Handel who was spending a number of years in Italy. Cardinal Ottoboni encouraged the two musicians to enter into a musical duel with each other, the result of which that Scarlatti was declared the best harpsichordist and Handel the best organist. The two composers had great respect for each other.
At the end of 1719 Domenico left Italy. He was nominated as director of music at the court of King João the fifth of Portugal in Lissabon. He gave lessons there to the "infante", brother of the king and to Maria Barbara the kings daughter, who displayed a great talent for playing the harpsichord. The same Maria Barbara was later married off to the Spanish crown prince Ferdinand the sixth, and she brought Domenico with her to the Spanish court. Domenico composed many works while there, most notably a large number of sonatas. Fortunately these were preserved due to the fact that Maria Barabara gave them to the castrato Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, who brought them back to Italy. Many of his other vocal and orchestral works were lost due to the enormous destruction in Lisbon as a result of the earthquake of 1752.
How many of Domenico Scarlatti's works were truly lost is difficult to say. Perhaps some works came to be in private collections or libraries. We know of many vocal works, especially operas, for which we have no musical scores. The libretti for most of these operas remain intact, such that we certainly know that music for them was composed and when and where they were performed, and by whom. This is possibly a reason why Scarlatti's sonatas are his most well-known works. Certainly the famous Farinneli's role in keeping the sonatas safe played an important role.
Domenico passed away in Madrid on July 23rd in 1757.
* Ralph Kirkpatrick: Domenico Scarlatti, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-02708-0-pbk, 1983.
* Roberto Pagano: Allessandro and Domenico Scarlatti: two lives in one, translated by Frederick Hammand,
   ISBN-13: 978-1576471081, 2006.