The "Spanish" Sonatas

It would surely go too far to claim that Scarlatti has transformed from a baroque composer to a flamenco composer, a claim that can sometimes be read on the Internet. In essence, there are relatively few sonatas that refer directly to flamenco or other Spanish dance forms. This is because Scarlatti has made all these elements his own and seamlessly integrated them into his style. K105, K107 or K175 may serve as examples for the so-called flamenco sonatas. It should be noted, however, that even in these sonatas whole blocks appear that are kept purely tonal and have nothing to do with flamenco. This is often overlooked, as is the importance of juxtaposing such very contrasting blocks. In these cases it is a matter of the hard confrontation between tonal and modal. The fact that Scarlatti succeeded in forging a unit out of it speaks for his ingenuity. From around K136 (with the exception of K175, where the confrontation is carried out again and even more consistently than before), Scarlatti's concern is less and less about the confrontation of tonal and modal elements, but increasingly about the integration of the Spanish folk music elements that fascinate him into his own style, i.e. an assimilation. Only in one sonata of the late period does a pure flamenco quote appear again (K492, to be discussed later).

Spanish musicologists today take the point of view that composers like Antonio Cabezon have used the flamenco formula, which is undoubtedly correct, e.g. In this form:

Example of the Flamenco-formula

However, Scarlatti rarely used the flamenco formula, an example follows later.

At the very beginning of the Spanish period, the Neapolitan tone, used as a pure melody tone, appears again, in K96 (To the score):

Example K96

What is interesting about this example is the fact that in bars 68 and 75 all three melody tones, including the Neapolitan tone, are in complete dissonance with the chord used. This is a means of generating a tension that is released in the following bars. Here, too, the means of asymmetrical construction is used. From bars 65 to 72 a seven-bar phrase that is reduced to six bars when repeated.

In the rape edition already quoted, this passage reads as follows:

Example K96

The Neapolitan melody tone b flat has been simply deleted in favor of the tone b.

However, there are numerous examples of places in Scarlatti's music, where these Spanish elements appear briefly in all purity. A few examples may illustrate this.

K107 (F major - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K107

Sonata K135 (E-major - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K135

K136 (E major - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K136

K137 (D major - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K137

K114 (A major - Con spirito e presto) (To the score)

Example K114

The first thing that is striking about these examples is the modality of the material. This cannot be emphasized enough. Such passages cannot be explained according to tonal principles. This starts with the unresolved suspended chords. (In the harmonic structure, the minor seconds acts as the leading tone to the fundamental tone. This phenomenon comes from the Phrygian modality.

Some more examples:

K116 (c minor - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K116

Another example of the Neapolitan melodic tone can be found in measure 24 of K122 (D major - Allegro) (To the score)

Example K122

Another example of the flamenco modality K132 (C major - Andante) (To the score):

Example K132

The melisms in this example, like the harmonious structure, come directly from the flamenco culture. Note the B flat minor ninth chords in bars 38 and 39. The note C in the left hand functions as an ostinato. In the further course of the Spanish sonatas, the folk music elements are increasingly stylized and therefore no longer appear so clearly. This development has only a few exceptions such as K175 or the middle section of K202, we will talk about these sonatas later. The first example of this stylization a place in K134 (E major - Allegro) (To the score) is to be mentioned:

Example K134

After this sonata the compact block chords become rarer, which leads to a simplification of the musical structure. An example of this type of stylization of the flamenco influence may be found in K139 (c minor - Presto) (To the score):

Example K139

Another example of both the strange sudden key changes and the village fanfares can be found in K140 (D major - Allegro) (To the score). After the half-close in A major, it continues in C major:

Example K140

Other notable elements in Scarlatti's style include, for example, the unresolved dissonant melodic tones in K132 (C major - Andante) (To the score) that appear several times in this sonata:

Example K132

It affects the tones c sharp and b in bars 25 and 27. They are indirect lead tones that find their resolution in the last 32nd note of the same beat. However, this is indirect and so fast that the resolution is not even perceived and these tones are perceived as unresolved.

K140 (D major - Allegro) (To the score) is one of the numerous major sonatas, both blocks of which end in minor, as well as e.g. K182 (A major - Allegro) (To the score) or K297 (F major - Allegro) (To the score).

In K145 (D major - no tempo indication) (To the score), both the half-ending and the full-ending consist of a broken suspended chord. Here is the half-ending:

Example K145

K162 (E major - Andante - Allegro) (To the score) is one of the formally and harmonically very interesting sonatas. This sonata is also in two parts in the large form, but the parts themselves are also structured. The A-part is two-part, the B-part three-part. The A section consists of an andante and an allegro. The andante is in 3/4 time and modulates from the basic key of E major not to the dominant B major, but to B minor. The Allegro is in B major and ends with the half-close. The second part is in three parts in the sense of A - B - A '. A is the continuation of the Allegro from the first part and modulates from B major to E major. B is a varied repetition of the Andante from the first part and is in E minor. A 'is a varied repetition of the Allegro from the first part. However, this wealth in form and harmonious color forms a perfect unity.

Another two-part sonata type appears in K170 (C major - Andante - Allegro) (To the score). The A part is called Andante moderato e cantabile. The tempo should by no means be taken too slowly, it is an alla breve beat. So a moderato beat is a half note. The second part is called Allegro and is in 3/8 time. The correct interpretation of tempo, which also applies to many similar time and tempo changes in other sonatas, is this:

Example Interpretation of the tempo

One counting time of the A part corresponds to one bar of the B part. In this way, the increase in Tempo is achieved while a basic meter is maintained.

K182 (A major - Allegro) (To the score) is again a major sonata with both blocks ending in minor. The flamenco modality is also present in this sonata:

Example K182

In Sonata K184 (F minor - Allegro) (To the score) a passage appears twice which, from a harmonic point of view, is mainly made up of diminished seventh chords. That is why a clear tonal reference can no longer be perceived at this point:

Example K184

In K190 (B flat major - Allegro) (To the score) the Italian dance form Tarantella appears again. This is in a very fast 12/8 time. It is the only non-Spanish dance form that appears regularly in the sonatas. Other examples of tarantellas are K214, K253, or K262..

The already mentioned Sonata K202 (B flat major - Allegro - Pastorale - Vivo) (To the score) shows Scarlatti in the middle section as a harmonic revolutionary. He was the first composer who, through enharmonic reinterpretation of the diminished seventh chord, got into remote and actually illogical keys. The first example can be found in bars 66-70:

Example K202

The modulation goes from C minor to A minor. The diminished seventh chord of the 7th degree in c minor b, d, f, a flat is enharmonically reinterpreted to b, d, f, g sharp, i.e. for the first inversion of the diminished seventh chord of the 7th degree in a minor. The same procedure is used twice more, in bars 72 - 86. The whole passage is given here:

Example K202

The modulations run from d minor (bars 73-74) to e minor (from bar 75) and from a minor (bars 82-84) to c minor (bars 85-86). The diminished seventh chord of bar 75 (a sharp, c sharp, e, g) acts as an intermediate dominant to the dominant seventh chord (b, d sharp, f sharp, a).

Other three-part sonatas that use a similar formal scheme are e.g. K235, K273 or K282.

In Sonata K205 (F major - Vivo) (To the score) the same type of form appears as in Sonata K162 already discussed. The typing of the individual parts is different, however. The A section begins in a fast all-breve measure in F major, which is followed by a tarantella in F minor. What has been said about the interpretation of the different meters and the associated tempos for K170 also applies here. The B part first continues the tarantella, then the alla breve part appears again, this time in E flat major and then again the tarantella in F minor, which modulates at the end to F major, the basic key.

Another example of the variety in form and harmonic structure can be found in K206 (E major - Andante) (To the score). This sonata is in E major and the A section ends "normally" on the dominant B major. The B part, however, modulates about halfway down to E minor so as not to leave this key and the sonata also ends in E minor. It cannot be explained enough that such procedures are absolutely unique in the history of tonality and can only be explained if one considers that Scarlatti maintained an intimate relationship with the modality.

Another peculiar form in the harmonical structure can be found in K212 (A major - Allegro molto) (To the score). Here, too, it concerns a two-part sonata and the A section runs "quite normally". This part starts in A major and ends on the dominant E major. The B part is in A minor and begins in the parallel key of C major. A minor is reached quickly and is the main key of this part. Only at the end does a short coda appear, which returns to A major.

Another example of the flamenco influence can be found in K224 (D major - Vivo) (To the score), at the beginning of the second block. Here, too, the "forbidden" fifths parallels are more or less the main thing, because they create a sound image that is frowned upon in the "official" music theory and therefore does not occur in the work of other composers of that time:

Example K224

In K226 (C minor - Allegro) (To the score) sudden changes of key appear again, in the second part. A short episode in C major changes to a minor and ends on the dominant E. This 8-bars a minor period is then repeated in G minor and F minor, without any kind of modulation in between.

In K227 (b minor - Allegro) (To the score) both blocks are in different time signatures and tempos. The first block is in 2/4 time, the second in 3/8 time. A beat of the first block corresponds here again to a bar of the second block:

Example K227

In K239 (f minor - Allegro) (To the score) another Spanish dance form appears, the Seguedilla. The rhythm of this dance is reminiscent of the polonaise. As an example some bars from this sonata:

Example K239

The rhythm of the Seguedilla also appears in K380 (E major - Andante comodo) (To the score) and in K491 (D major - Allegro) (To the score)..

No baroque composer has gone so far in his modulations as Domenico Scarlatti on many occasions. As an example follows a page from K244 (B major - Allegro) (To the score), namely the beginning of the second block:

Example K244

This passage from K264 (E major - Vivo) (To the score) proves that the enharmonic reinterpretation of the diminished seventh chord in K202 is not an isolated case, but can be counted as part of Scarlatti's compositional means:

Example K264

In bars 196 and 197 the diminished seventh chord appears in E flat, f sharp, a, c. This is reinterpreted enharmonically in measure 198 to D-sharp, F-sharp, A-C and acts as an intermediate dominant to the dominant seventh chord E, G sharp, B, D, which belongs to a minor. Immediately afterwards, the modulation is in e minor.

An interesting harmonic scheme appears in Sonata K270 (C major - no tempo indication) (To the score). In the first and second part, which are both in three parts, harmonic blocks are set against each other without any modulation:

1st part:

C major - half closure on the dominant G major, E flat major (without transition) - modulation to G minor - half closure on the dominant D major - further in G major.

Part 2:

2 bars in G major, A flat major (without transition) - modulations to D flat major, F minor and C minor - half-close on the dominant G major, further in C major.

In K282 (D major - Allegro - Andante - Allegro) (To the score) the three movements, which later became the sonata standard, are anticipated.

The first part already shows two conflicting themes and approaches to a development. A short coda leads to the Andante in d minor. The sonata ends with a short Allegro finale in D major.

The Sonata K284 (G major - Allegro) (To the score) is, formally speaking, one of the first rondos that was ever composed (A - B - A - C - A). Here, too, Scarlatti has broken new ground.

The already mentioned flamenco formula appears in Sonata K286 (A major - Allegro) (To the score). However, this is the exception rather than the rule:

Example K286

K287 (D major - Andante allegro) (To the score) was composed for a two-manual house organ. In the collection of the Parma manuscripts there is the following note: "Per Organo da Camera con due Tastatura Flautato e Trombone".

Sonata K290 (G major - Allegro) (To the score) contains a wonderful example of the extensive stylization of the flamenco influence:

Example K290

Another example of this can be found in K295 (d minor - Allegro) (To the score):

Example K295

Sonata K296 (F major - Andante) (To the score), one of Scarlatti's longest sonatas, has a particularly interesting harmonic basic scheme. This sonata is also designed in two parts in the large form.

The first part is divided into three sections:

First section:

F major - modulation to C major - half-close to G major,

second part:

A flat major (again without transition) - D flat major - D flat minor - E major,

third section:

A minor.

The second part is divided into two sections:

First section:

D minor - modulations according to G minor, F major, C minor, G minor, C minor, B minor, A flat major, E flat major, B flat minor and C major,

Second part:

Coda in F major.

In Sonata K298 (D major - Allegro) (To the score) there are regular repetitions of notes at high speed (alla breve measure):

Example K298

At the end of this chapter I quote a page from K299 (D major - Allegro) (To the score), undoubtedly one of Scarlatti's technically most difficult sonatas:

Example K299