Domenico Scarlatti

Sonata for keyboard 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 Label Catalog #
    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 / Claudio Bohema CB 60202
    2016 Claudio CB 60206
    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 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 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 2642292
    2009 Erato / WEA 0927486432
    2009 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 Ambroisie 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