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Alessandro Scarlatti

Four Sonate a quattro

Two violins, viola and violoncello

edited by Rosalind Halton

“The earliest string quartets” was how the great Scarlatti scholar Edward Dent described this set of four works, published here for the first time in their original scoring.[1] The primary source for this edition of the Sonate a quattro by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) is the set of parts in the Santini Collection at the Diözesanbibliothek, Münster. They are also known in an English arrangement as “Concertos”, published in London by Benjamin Cooke fifteen years after the composer’s death. The present edition restores movements omitted or modified in the Cooke publication, notably the three fiery Allegro movements in 3/4 that form the core of Sonatas 2–4. The dialogue within these movements lends weight to the view that here Scarlatti pioneered the concept of the string quartet.

Alessandro Scarlatti is noted above all for his monumental output of sacred and secular vocal music, but his instrumental works show equally innovative mastery of structure and idiom. They are thought to originate mainly from his final decade in Naples (1715–25). The source material of the Sonate a quattro displays the papal knighthood conferred on him in July 1715, with the title “Cavaliere Alessandro Scarlatti”.[2]

This set of four works, all in minor keys, is unique for the energy of the fugal writing, the passionate chromaticism of the slow movements and the playful, asymmetrical phrasing of the final Minuets. The scoring leaves open a range of performance possibilities, from one to a part with or without continuo (following the varying density of figured bass and the instruction “senza cembalo”) to orchestral performance as suggested by the English Concerto arrangements.

[1] Edward J. Dent, “The Earliest String Quartets”, Monthly Musical Record, 33 (1903), 202–04.
[2] Luca della Libera, “Nuovi documenti biografici su Alessandro Scarlatti e la sua famiglia”, Acta musicologica, 83 (2011–12), 205–22.

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Leaflet Descriptive leaflet (pdf)

Leaflet Rosalind Halton: Additional information on Sonate a quattro (January 2015, PDF)

Four Sonate a quattro
hh361.fsp  · ISMN 979 0 708092 09 4 · ISBN 978-1-905779-51-2 
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