Five Italian Baroque Compositions for Organ
from Three Composers

Bernardo Pasquini   ◊  Toccata e Ricercare
Alessandro Scarlatti
  ◊  Partita alla Lombarda e Fuga

Domenico Scarlatti  ◊  Sonata  ‘The Cat Fugue’

Complimentary Score available in March 2023


Bernardo Pasquini was born in  Massa da Valdinievole, Lucca in 1637.  By 1650 he had taken up residence in Rome, where he became the organist of S. Maria in Aracoeli in 1664, a position he held up to his death in 1710. Circa 1670 he was employed by Prince Giambattista Borghese as a harpsichordist and music director. He was a colleague and contemporary of both Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti.  His compositional works include music for solo keyboard, as well as a substantial output (much of which has been lost) for vocal ensembles, including oratorios, operas and cantatas.  His Toccata e Ricercare in D Minor are both eminently idiomatic com-positions for the organ; the toccata makes effective use of extended pedal points and bold sequential imitative counterpoint, while the fugue appears in a tightly formalized structure, employing a daringly chromatic harmonic language.

Alessandro Scarlatti was born in Palermo in 1660 and moved to Rome as a boy, where he studied music and  later married in 1678. His career took him to Naples from 1684 to 1702, then briefly to Florence, with a  return to Rome and Naples in 1703, where he divided his musical life between the two cities. In 1707 he was appointed maestro di capella at S. Maria Maggiore. He died in Naples in 1725. His compositions include many operas and cantatas, masses and other sacred works, madrigals, concerti grossi, chamber sonatas, and pieces for solo keyboard. His Partita alla Lombarda e Fuga in A-Major are the concluding movements of a multi-sectional Toccata in A-minor for keyboard. Both  movements are marked by transparent textures and refined dance-like rhythms. The fugue presents rare insights into the composer’s congenial contrapuntal techniques.

Domenico Scarlatti, the sixth child of Alessandro, was born in Naples in 1685, a birth year shared with Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. In 1701 he was appointed organista e compositore di  musica at the Naples royal chapel, where his father was maestro. Early travels took him to Venice, where he might possibly have met Vivaldi and Handel, and then on to Rome. In 1719 he travelled to Palermo, then to Lisbon, where in 1728 he married and settled. In order to continue his services to the daughter of the royal family, he moved with Maria Barbara's entourage when marriage relocated her to Madrid. While there, Scarlatti wrote 555 single-movement sonatas for solo keyboard. He was knighted in 1738 by King John of Portugal, and he passed away in 1757. The Scarlatti keyboard Sonata in D Minor is unaltered (with suggested pedal notations appearing toward the end of each of its repeated binary sections). The so-called “Cat Fugue” is unusual in the context of Scarlatti’s sonatas because of its formalized contrapuntal structure. Its opening solo subject statement is composed of apparently random atonal notes that a cat might inadvertently sound while stepping upward across a keyboard, hence the informal cognomen; as subsequent voices of the fugue enter, the enigmatically chromatic tonality of the theme becomes clearly delineated. Although it is presented here as a literal transcription, several of the bass entries have been assigned to the organ pedal; the manual octaves are Scarlatti's notations.