Domenico Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonata in A major, K. 208 (L. 238)

    Description by "Blue" Gene Tyranny

    Each of the hundreds of brief musical gems in binary form that were called "sonatas" by Scarlatti is a study of a particular idea -- a fingering technique, a phrase or certain instrumental timbre, a way of creating unusual harmonies, an obsessively cycling motif changed only gradually until it reaches a resolution hardly expected by the listener, and so on. In this sonata, the central gestural idea is that of the anticipatory beat. This creates some wonderful momentary harmonies, and even in the Andantino Cantabile tempo gives a lilt to the melody revealing Iberian influences -- to quote the brilliant keyboardist Wanda Landowska who revived much early music: "When we hear Scarlatti's music, we know that we are in the climate of sunlight and warmth. It is Italy, it is Spain."

    The theme opens with a slow arpeggio followed by a descending scale that introduces the gentle skipping rhythm of the anticipation. The line begins to work its way upward again by faster runs in the fourth measure. In the Longo edition of Scarlatti's works, the notes of some of the runs are "corrected" to sound more like what would be expected in the style of Haydn or Mozart, and in this case to eliminate the parallel fifths in the bass forbidden in traditional voice leading. These type of "corrections" only serve to take away the originality of the composer's style, his original decisions sounding interesting and musically just fine.

    In the fifth measure, a variation on the first measure is created by a chromatic altering of the melody (the D is sharped) that leads toward the dominant chord but mainly provides a dissonance that is joyfully explored and repeated in the sixth measure. Scarlatti rarely makes changes in the harmony just to blandly modulate to the next chord, but instead creates a new point of musical interest, in this case an obsession on the D sharp which doesn't resolve until the seventh measure. Measures 8 through 10 obsess on a repeating, "vamping" figure of three descending notes in the parallel minor. The next few measures work toward the dominant key, the typical structure for the first half of a Scarlatti sonata going from the tonic to the dominant key (and the reverse in the second half). The first cadence touchingly substitutes C sharp minor for the dominant, and then proceeds to a standard V-I cadence. On the dominant of the dominant (B major), the original score employs the rich sound of the acciaccatura, a favorite device/sound of Scarlatti's (possibly heard in native guitar music). This chord contains both the current harmony and the one it is resolving toward -- thus, the B chord has the notes B, E, F sharp, A, B (B7 sus. 4 in modern notation). This is of course again "corrected" in the Longo edition.

    The second half never repeats the theme of the first half but does beautifully expand on the previous running figures.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2022
    Decca
    4843592
    2022
    Tacet
    TACET 269
    2022
    Warner Classics / Wmi Italy
    2022
    CPO
    5554732
    2021
    Decca
    2021
    Stradivarius
    STR 37197
    2020
    Erato / Warner Classics
    null
    2020
    Erato
    0190295180874
    2020
    Prospero / Prospero Classical
    PROSP 0005
    2019
    Erato / Warner Classics
    2019
    IBS Classical
    IBS 242018
    2019
    Chandos
    ANNI 0040
    2019
    Hänssler Classic
    HC 19008
    2018
    Alpha
    399
    2018
    Chandos
    CHAN 10988
    2018
    EOS Guitar Edition
    EOS 2342003
    2018
    Austrian Gramophone
    AG 0010
    2018
    Erato
    574283
    2018
    Erato
    0190295633684
    2017
    Brilliant Classics
    95480
    2017
    Stradivarius
    STR 37073
    2017
    Capriccio Records
    C 8017
    2017
    Cube Squared Records
    C2R 609
    2017
    iTinerant Early
    iE 004
    2017
    Menuetto Classics
    2017
    Genuin
    GEN 17477
    2016
    Claudio
    CR 35026
    2016
    Sony Classical
    88875192982
    2016
    Mirare
    MIR 285
    2016
    Claudio
    CB 60206
    2016
    Claudio / Claudio Bohema
    CB 60202
    2016
    BIS
    BIS 2138
    2016
    Sony Classical / Sony Music
    309294
    2015
    Ad Vitam
    AV 150415
    2015
    CRD Records
    CRD 3533
    2015
    Berlin Classics
    0300603BC
    2015
    Musica Omnia
    MO 0509
    2014
    APR (Appian)
    6014
    2014
    Mirare
    MIR 273
    2013
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    94613
    2013
    Bongiovanni
    GB 51762
    2013
    Raumklang
    RK 3206
    2013
    Newton Classics
    8802210
    2013
    Newton Classics
    8802191
    2012
    Erato
    2012
    Rewind
    REW 507
    2012
    Nimbus
    NI 1719
    2011
    Erato / Virgin Classics
    5099964201
    2011
    Ensemble Gaudior
    2011
    Paladino Music
    PMR0003
    2010
    Music & Arts
    1242
    2010
    EMI Classics
    2010
    Eroica Classical Recordings
    3323
    2009
    Various Artists
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    2642292
    2009
    Erato / WEA
    0927486432
    2009
    Various Artists
    ABC Classics / Universal
    4763558
    2008
    Novalis
    150187
    2008
    EMI Classics
    5099951423
    2008
    EMI Classics
    2008
    Brilliant Classics
    93546
    2008
    EMI Classics
    2008
    Sony Classical
    88697318972
    2008
    United Recordings
    88005
    2007
    Zig Zag Territoires
    ZZT060202
    2007
    Accent
    24189
    2007
    Nimbus
    1726
    2007
    Scandinavian Classics
    220572205
    2006
    Athene
    23025
    2006
    Marquis Classics
    81343
    2006
    Teldec
    2006
    Boston Skyline
    112
    2006
    Ottavo
    29445
    2006
    NCA
    60164
    2006
    GSP Recordings
    1031
    2005
    Warner Music
    62092
    2005
    Naxos
    8557808
    2005
    Emergo
    39592
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    33588
    2004
    Brilliant Classics
    92201
    2004
    Capriccio Records
    67112
    2003
    Centaur Records
    2787
    2003
    Virgin
    545546
    2003
    Naïve
    8891
    2003
    Classico
    489
    2003
    Meridian Records
    84485
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2003
    Warner Classics
    2002
    Mirare
    9918
    2001
    Astree Naive
    8836
    2001
    Analekta
    23121
    2001
    Claudio
    35102
    2000
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    251
    2000
    Well-Tempered Productions
    5168
    2000
    Stradivarius
    33500
    2000
    Simax
    1172
    1999
    Astree
    128502
    1999
    Naxos
    553067
    1999
    Naxos
    554344
    1999
    Sony Music Distribution
    61820
    1997
    Arts Music
    47356
    1996
    Sony Classical Essential Classics / Sony Music Distribution
    62425
    1996
    Tall Poppies
    057
    1996
    Valois
    4750
    1995
    Hungaroton
    11806
    1995
    Connoisseur Society
    4180
    1995
    Centaur Records
    2637
    1994
    Naxos
    550252
    1994
    Marquis Classics
    163
    1993
    Astree
    8502
    1993
    Channel Classics
    2291
    1992
    Vox
    3007
    1992
    Erato
    45309
    1992
    Erato
    45422
    1992
    Chesky Records
    75
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    69070
    1988
    Erato
    22922454232
    Koch Discover International
    921311
    Hungaroton
    11806
    Capriccio Records
    212
    Erato
    45309/4
    Brilliant Classics
    93546/14
    Rivoalto
    9804
    Philips
    442236
    ABC Classics
    4763338