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The Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and Eighteenth-Century Musical Style Hardcover – September 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"...a substantial contribution to the field." NOTES

"This reviewer does not doubt that Sutcliffe has added significantly to the scholarship about Scarlatti and that this book will be useful to the Scarlatti scholar...." Choice

"Anyone reading the book attentively will come away with a heightened awareness of the brilliance and originality with which Scarlatti not only flouted convention but also made seeming caprices part of a coherent musical language." Early Keyboard Journal, David Schulenberg

Book Description

This book investigates one of the greatest yet least understood repertories of Western keyboard music: the 555 keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. It is the first book-length treatment in English of the sonatas in fifty years and it examines the reasons why this famous body of works, while frequently performed, has not been written about more often The lack of documentary evidence and the composer's position between the so-called Baroque and the Classical periods are crucial factors. Dr Sutcliffe also examines the each individual sonata in unprecedented detail.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521481406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521481403
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,026,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, let me say how grateful I am to Robin Friedman for pointing me to this book.

I think most pianists (and other keyboard players) are aware of the first time they heard the music of Domenico Scarlatti. This music has a sound and style that is uniquely his and when you play it, your conviction about its special character is strengthened. His music is wonderful stuff and his 500 or so keyboard sonatas are an ocean that few of us chart completely. Most of us are happy playing through several dozen of them and learning a few of them well. W. Dean Sutcliffe has made Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas an object of deep academic study and this work is a treasure and a gift of us who want to deepen our understanding of the master and his music.

And most of our understanding has to come through the music since there is almost no documentary evidence of Domenico's life. Many people have supplied stories, rumors, conjecture, and surmises. But there is precious little to nothing beyond a few letters. There isn't even an autograph copy of the sonatas. There are two large collections that copied out the sonatas and several individual copies found in various places over the centuries. However, nothing in Domenico's hand.

Sutcliffe organizes the exploration of the sonatas in seven chapters. Each chapter is a fascinating exploration of the sonatas from the perspective of an explanatory theory put forward at various times. The author includes their variants and refutations as well as where the speculations seem to explain something and where they actually make our understanding even cloudier. Each of these chapters uses various sonatas to make its point.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eloi on May 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everyone who takes western music history lite, aka "music appreciation," hears a sample sonata by Domenico Scarlatti--usually K 159, 1, 141--and, depending on the textbook, reads a few words about binary sonata, Spanish influence, keyboard virtuosity--and then moves on to the far better known works of two other great composers born in 1685: Bach and Handel. In comparison to their work, a single Scarlatti sonata seems lightweight.

But those who become interested enough to listen to the numerous recordings--say, Pogorelich on piano or Kipnis on harpsichord--will be impressed not only with the quality of the 16 or so sonatas per CD but also with how unlike each sonata is from the one before. It gets addictive, and by the time one reaches sonata #555, the conclusion is obvious: there is no "typical" Scarlatti sonata. So what and why and how questions lead listeners first to CD program notes--mostly useless--and to Ralph Kirkpatrick's 1953 _Domenico Scarlatti_ (seminal work, but dated) and Malcolm Boyd's 1986 _Domenico Scarlatti--Master of Music_ (quite readable, but only about 75 pages deal with keyboard sonatas). The only other substantial treatment in English is Joel Sheveloff's unpublished 1970 Ph.D. thesis.

Finally, W. Dean Sutcliffe has written the most interesting and best-informed book on Scarlatti's sonatas since Kirkpatrick. It's a scholarly book, beginning with a review of past works on Scarlatti's sonatas. This is also a lively review of how the historical perception of Scarlatti has changed. Sutcliffe provides the known biographical details of Scarlatti along with the wry admission that we will never know--perhaps by the composer's design?--anything about his personal life.
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By justine on December 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
There are two big books on Scarlatti's sonatas : Kirkpatrick (1953), and more recently Sutcliffe. Kirkpatrick has made a marvelous biographical work, to which few things have been added since, and lots of daring hypotheses, many of which (pairs of sonatas, notion of "crux"...) have been proved wrong. Sutcliffe gives a brilliant (too brilliant...) historiography, of the rhetorical-musical sort, but dares no hypotheses. So the question is : what is the aim of musical research ? Commenting with a grain of salt on what others have done before you, or working hard to find new hypotheses ?
If you think musicology goes the wrong way, and if you're still hungry after that, read a third book : Massimo Bogianckino (1956). It's the shortest and the most penetrating book I've read on the sonatas.
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