Keyboard Sonata

Domenico Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonata in E major

K. 380, Kk 380 • “Cortège”

Recommended recording

Curated by Guy Jones, Head of Curation

About this work

This E major work, now one of Scarlatti's most popular keyboard compositions, was preserved in the fourth Venice volume of his sonatas, dated 1754. The composer probably wrote it a year or so before the date on the manuscript, though it is possible it may actually have been written in 1754. Many believe it was around this time that Scarlatti had taken ill, owing to reports he was confined to his residence. He died in 1757, but nevertheless produced hundreds more keyboard sonatas in those last precious years. This E major effort, though marked Andante comodo, is much livelier than its tempo indication would normally suggest.

The Sonata opens hesitantly, the music wanting to lunge forward, it would seem, but held back by an inner tentativeness or timidity. After this clever start-and-stop playfulness, the music jumps to its feet and turns quite lively. Soon a festive dance theme, one of Scarlatti's best known, is presented in stately chords, imparting a truly regal elegance to the atmosphere. In the second half of the work, Scarlatti develops the material from the exposition, focusing mainly on the latter portion featuring the famous tune. As with the exposition, the development section is repeated and then the Sonata ends, leaving the listener with a most memorable five minutes.