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KEYBOARD MUSIC

Synopsis

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OF THE LATE XVII. AND EARLY XVIII. CENTURIES
Interpreted by Mrs. NORMAN O'NEILL
SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Presto in E Major, No. 20
Presto in G Major, No. 14 Fuga in G Minor, No. 30
Allegressimo in A Major, No. 31 Andante in E Minor, No. 58 Allegro in C Major, No. 32
WE in this country are proud to remember that the foundations of keyboard music were laid by sixteenth-century British musicians -Byrd, Farnaby, and the other Tudor and Elizabethan composers. Then this supremacy passed to the Continent. Scarlatti the elder (there are two of that name, father and son) was a great pioneer in writing for the keyboard. He brought a new technique to harpsichord music, doing away with the exaggerated* ornamentation then in vogue, and making the hands move about the keys with greater freedom. He often made the hands cross, so that the arm, and particularly the forearm, had to be used freely; thus he may be said to have laid the foundation of modern Piano technique. In his later years, it is said, some of his own pieces were beyond his own playing, for he had grown so stout that his hands would not cross !
In his young days he once competed with Handel, at a test held by a Cardinal in Rome, to see who was the finer executant. The two were equally matched in skill at the harpsichord, but when it came to Organ playing, Handel, . they say, was an easy winner.
The Fugue in G Minor has received its nickname of the ' Cat ' because Scarlatti's cat is supposed to have walked on the keyboard striking certain notes which the composer playfully adopted as the ' subject ' of his fugue.
Music has often inspired verse, but seldom can it have moved a music critic to ' drop into poetry!' Whilst Mr. Edwin Evans, the well-known critic, was listening, in a London concert hall, to a Scarlatti recital recently, he made up, on the spur of the moment, a happy Triolet which he passed round amongst the fellow critics and which, by his permission, we quote :-
The Muse of Scarlatti
Was blithesome and gay. In style ever natty,
The Muse of Scarlatti.
Only once was she catty; A fugue marks the day. The Muse of Scarlatti
Was blithesome and gay.

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