Chronology of Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas

Back in the 1950’s in his treatise Ralph Kirkpatrick gave up this as an impossible task.
He just noticed that the Sonatas K.1-30 were the Essercizi and thus clearly older than their publication c.1737. We can similarly date the Sonatas up to K. 42 before the Roseingrave publication c.1748.

But today, many decades later, with a few further sources discovered and lots of research, I am aware that more fruitful attempts have been made at dating “the 555+”.

I would like to know the most up-to-date chronology. Thanks!


Googling gave me food for thought, but not a full reply:

The late Chris Hail in a “Collections.pdf” download lists the sources (several dozen!) by date, whether known or presumed. In a “Characteristics.pdf” download he lists his chronology by a few periods, and collates his with another chronology. Using neither Longo nor Kirkpatrick numbers, his lists are very hard to read: nowhere does he list the 555 with hypothetical composition year, either.


It’s an oddball question but here it is. Did Scarlatti ever use the low F in a sonata? On my instrument, jack 1

Oh my. Thanks for replying. That’s a lot of small print for my old eyes but I do appreciate it. I have Kirkpatrick’s book but nowhere does it mention range or octave requirements. I haven’t figured out the correct search terms yet = they all come back with the same references or CD suggestions,

I have published a history of the harpsichord range both in an article and in a book. I quote from the most recent version about the FF: “FF was only exceptionally included in seventeenth-century instruments, and its musical use was still virtually unheard of when François Couperin used it in La Bandoline (1713), where he had it printed in diamond shape as optional. A decade later Rameau featured the FF in Les Cyclopes (1724). After Corrette wrote a FF in his Premier Livre (1734) soon the note became common. …
Some eighteenth-century harpsichords made in the Iberian peninsula, as well as English spinets, had a range from GG to g’’’ chromatic. This is also the compass used in Spain by Domenico Scarlatti, though he only used it fully in a few of his 555+ Sonatas. … he employed the range from FF to g’’’ in only two sonatas: K.483 and K.485. In the latter he covered the full range in just two bars, 49-50. Interestingly, in these pieces Scarlatti used neither FF# nor GG#: he is thus likely to have used an instrument with the common Iberian GG-g’’’ keyboard, retuning to FF the otherwise-unused GG#.”

Following some of the links which Claudio so kindly provides, I find that Barry Ife’s review of Hail’s massive e-book (“Scarlatti Domenico. A new look at the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti for people who use both sides of their brain”) is a very helpful starting point. The review is in the Iberian issue of Sounding Board:
As Barry Ife points out, the text can be searched electronically, which is great when looking for material relating to specific questions.

This, from the Talk Classical conversation Claudio links: W. Dean Sutcliffe begins his review of Matthew Flannery’s 2004 monograph, A chronological order for the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) with this sentence: “If the boldness of Domenico Scarlatti seems sometimes to be touched by madness, it could be argued that similar attributes are needed in anyone who wants to engage seriously with the vexed issue of the chronology of his vast corpus of keyboard sonatas.”

In Scarlatti scholarship I think we must be careful lest concern for accuracy in hopelessly complex material causes us to lose touch with the congeniality so inherent in the music.
Would Scarlatti have wanted us to be so concerned?
Would Scarlatti have wanted to produce a final, authoritative text of a Scarlatti sonata?

In Hail’s amazing work, I take the best joy in his annual calendar for playing all of Scarlatti’s sonatas…just what I was looking for! Ooo…today is May 8th…what will I play to start my day?

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Hi there: Dear Michael Shields: indeed I read Barry Ife’s review. And every single of Chris Hail’s documents. Yet I fail to find anything like a list where I can enter a Kirkpatrick index number and get a suggested chronology.

Dear Ed Sutton: I agree that often a good-enough text is enough: my complete Heugel edition is enough for me (I am not a Scarlatti specialist and only seldom play any of the 555 in public). However, I am interested in chronology for two reasons:

  1. to understand, among DScarlatti’s unique admixture of Italian and Spanish baroque features, the frequent traits of the new “classical” style. Was he following the pioneering attempts of Pergolesi, or was he already conversant with the full style of a CPE Bach? This helps me to understand how to perform some particular Sonatas.
  2. for fingering, a unique tool to reproduce the mostly unwritten articulation the composer meant. The matter is easy to decide for the Essercizi, mostly composed at a time DScarlatti is unlikely to have employed a technique much different from the well-documented one of his father Alessandro: these pieces can be played with traditional cross-fingering technique without hardly any difficulty. But this is not the case for many of the more involved (and arguably much later?) Sonatas, prompting the questions for each Sonata: how later is it? Should we forget the pre-1740s technique and use the full thumb-pivot/thumb-under technique, certainly well documented during the last years of the composer’s long life?