Friday, April 19, 2019

András Schiff Plays Scarlatti & Mozart

No. 309 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


This week’s Blog and Podcast is the first of two musical shares I have planned – this month and next – factoring Hungarian pianist András Schiff. Schiff’s many recordings include much of the keyboard music of Bach, music of Domenico Scarlatti, Joseph Haydn, Ernst von Dohnányi, Johannes Brahms, and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the complete piano sonatas of Mozart and Schubert, and the complete piano concertos of Felix Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven and Béla Bartók. Today’s podcast is part of our monthly series dedicated to piano sonatas, featuring works by Scarlatti and Mozart.

Scarlatti spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. He  is classified primarily as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style and he was one of the few Baroque composers to transition into the classical period. Like his renowned father Alessandro Scarlatti, he composed in a variety of musical forms, although today he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas.

As we embark in sampling Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas, we must remind ourselves that a sonata is first and foremost a generic term that applies to any “instrumental” composition (as opposed to a cantata, which is a piece of “sung” music). One cannot view these works in the same lens as, say, Mozart’s sonatas, as  Scarlatti's 555 keyboard sonatas are single movements (as opposed to most classical sonatas laid out in three or four), they also follow mostly in binary form (vs. the A-B-A so-called “sonata” form). While they don’t adhere to modern conventions, many of them display harmonic audacity in their use of discords, and also unconventional modulations to remote keys.

This podcast also includes three more installments to our complete Mozart piano sonata cycle, taken from Schiff’s 1995 set; sonatas K. 311, 332 and 333.

I think you will love this music too.

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