Alessandro Scarlatti

Alessandro Scarlatti lived between the years 1660-1725, and during that time wrote in all the major forms of the day. Although he was most famous for his operas and vocal compositions, he wrote some very fine keyboard music in the later years of his life. Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard music is more widely known, but the La Folia variations feature thirty pieces on the La Folia theme. They are elaborate and beautiful, and well worth listening to. They may have been written for one of Scarlatti’s patrons, Cardinal Ottoboni, who possessed a harpsichord with a complete bottom octave and three sets of strings.

The La Folia theme is named after a fifteenth century dance of Portugal, that later moved to Spain. “Folia” means “insane” and the dance was so named because it was accompanied by wild singing, and the dancing was done as if the dancers were out of their minds. During the late seventeenth century, composers began writing variations on the La Folia theme, which had developed over a long period of time from various sources of the dance. It was a very popular type of composition for seventeenth century guitarists as well as keyboardists, and many great composers wrote pieces of this genre. J.S. Bach, Corelli, and Vivaldi all wrote La Folia variations. The theme for Scarlatti’s La Folia variations first appeared in an “air des hautbois” of Jean Baptiste Lully.

© All Music Guide

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