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After listening to a lot of Scarlatti Sonatas recently I could only conclude:
1. Most are in two parts
2. The first part contains around 4-6 themes A,B,C,D,... and Scarlatti often repeats a theme or phrase before going on to the next one
3. The second part usually begins with a development or variation of the A theme from the first part and then often reintroduces some of the other themes from the first part

Is the above correct? Can you add any more to this?
Do you think the form of the Scarlatti Sonatas was a precursor of the sonata form used by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven? Thanks.

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Scarlatti sonatas, like most Baroque instrumental sonatas and dances (in suites etc) are in binary form, the precursor to sonata form used in sonatas, symphonies etc by Classical composers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_form


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some do really contain a kind of 'development' later to be found in the classic sonata, most do have a binary form, some don't because they are fugues, there is no standard.


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and Scarlatti didn't even call them 'sonate' but 'essercizi' so more étude-like, and right he was.


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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
....most do have a binary form, some don't because they are fugues, there is no standard.

.....and some others that aren't fugues have other structures too.
Like, these two, one of which I know because it was a specified piece in a Cliburn competition (early 1970's) and the other which has been much recorded, including by Horowitz:







Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
and Scarlatti didn't even call them 'sonate' but 'essercizi' so more étude-like, and right he was.

I thought only the first 30-or-so published ones were called that, and the rest were called either sonatas or something else.
(not sure at all, though)

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I'm well aware that all of them are not in binary form and indicated that in my OP. Since the overwhelming percentage of them are in binary form, I'm interested if anyone can comment in more detail about the form of the ones in binary form.

Can anyone add or subtract from what I said in the OP. For example, is it true that the opening of the second part is almost always a variation or development of the first theme in the first part?

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Sonata form grew out of both binary and ternary. The big difference between binary and Sonata form is you don't tend to start the exposition with the first theme.


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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
....The big difference between binary and Sonata form is you don't tend to start the exposition with the first theme.

In which don't you?
(I thought and think you do in both, unless you mean something other than what I'm getting.)

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I'm well aware that all of them are not in binary form and indicated that in my OP. Since the overwhelming percentage of them are in binary form, I'm interested if anyone can comment in more detail about the form of the ones in binary form.

Can anyone add or subtract from what I said in the OP. For example, is it true that the opening of the second part is almost always a variation or development of the first theme in the first part?

What can be said of the thematic materials in Scarlatti sonatas is that there is no standard form. In fact Scarlatti was not a very formal composer and there isnt any documented and defined model that he followed. In that sense, his sonatas are not particularly anticipating the future classical sonata form.

There are multiple cases, some sonatas have a luxuriant number of themes which never repeat themselves, in some others he does reuse parts of the themes. In some sonatas the opening of the second half does reuse the first half opening theme completely or partially with or without new materials, in others it opens with new materials or materials borrowed from the first half but not necessarily the A thems (example K20). Usually the "development" if one can make such analogy (which is not really a development but more of a contrasting section) can reuse various materials from the first half.

I am not too sure what you mean by repeating the themes.

The only fairly constant model is that the material used to close the first part (usually followed by a final termination section) in the closing tonality is repeated, more or less, in the closing of the second half and of course in the tonic, but there isnt a complete restatement.


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Scarlatti was just experimenting and trying new things, all in an attempt to keep his music fresh and not bore his patron. At least that is my opinion. He was writing within a framework that worked for him and trying new things within that framework. And keeping the length consistent.

After writing hundreds of them, he could probably come up with a new one without a lot of trouble. He had to average a new one every couple of weeks.

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Most of the sonatas are in AABB binary form. but there are a few fugues and toccatas.

The sonatas we have are supposedly from the age of about 55 or so on. I once asked a friend of mine, a university music instructor, what he did before, and he said, "The same thing." He was probably improvising these things most of his life, and then decided to sell a few, followed by scribes writing them down, as I do not think there are any in his handwriting, although it has been quite a while since I read the Kirkpatrick book, so I am not sure.


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they are sonatinas



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Originally Posted by MadLiszt
they are sonatinas
Sonatinas usually refer to shorter and easier sonatas that are still in the classical sonata form used by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The Clementi Sonatinas would be a prime example. Scarlatti Sonatas don't fit that description.

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
....The big difference between binary and Sonata form is you don't tend to start the exposition with the first theme.

In which don't you?
(I thought and think you do in both, unless you mean something other than what I'm getting.)
Throwing a wobbly there. I meant in the development.

Another big difference will be in the recap.

Last edited by chopin_r_us; 11/03/21 11:20 AM.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Do you think the form of the Scarlatti Sonatas was a precursor of the sonata form used by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven? Thanks.

Not really.


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To some extent they must have been - highly influential from the day they were first published in London in 1738. Also contemporary Italian Opera Buffa arias (not your standard da capo ones) were important for sonata form's development..


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