October 14

Boccherini & Scarlatti

Italians Abroad

This concert will also be performed in Ellensburg, WA on October 12, 2108.

We’re kicking off our sixth season with piano quintets by Luigi Boccherini including his evocative “Nightwatch in Madrid,” a soulful string trio by his contemporary Maddalena Sirmen, and four sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti celebrating the release of our brand new Scarlatti CD!

“An elegant stylist with a cleanly articulated sound”

— Allan Kozinn, New York Times


Ingrid Matthews & Laurel Wells


Jason Fisher


Nathan Whittaker


Byron Schenkman



Luigi Boccherini:

Quintet in C Major, op. 57, no. 6, for piano and strings

Domenico Scarlatti:

Four keyboard sonatas, K. 208, K. 209, K. 501, K. 502

Maddalena Sirmen:

Sonata in F Minor, op. 1, no. 6, for two violins and cello

Luigi Boccherini:

Quintet in B-flat Major, op. 57, no. 2, for piano and strings

“…here was an intelligently programmed and charmingly presented concert that mixed masterworks with some fascinating novelties.”

— Memeteria


Program Notes

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Italian musicians were in demand all over Europe and many of them became more successful abroad than they had been at home. Such is the case with all three of the composers on tonight’s program. The cellist Luigi Boccherini and the violinist Maddalena Sirmen both had extensive international performing careers. Domenico Scarlatti had a more obscure existence as a harpsichordist at the Portuguese and Spanish courts, yet his music became popular in all the other places where Boccherini and Sirmen themselves performed.

Boccherini is well known for two popular works: “The Boccherini Cello Concerto,” which is actually just the most famous of his twelve cello concertos, and “The Boccherini Minuet,” a movement from one of his dozens of string quintets.

Much of his great output of chamber music has only recently begun to be explored. Boccherini scholar Elisabeth Le Guin describes in his music “an astonishing repetitiveness, an affection for extended passages with fascinating textures but virtually no melodic line, an obsession with soft dynamics, a unique ear for sonority, and an unusually rich palette of introverted and mournful affects.” Le Guin makes an analogy between Boccherini’s music and the tableaux vivants popular at the time, in which famous paintings would be recreated by actors on a stage. This static and atmospheric quality is very different from the more directional music we associate with other composers of that period.

In a legendary competition with his contemporary George Frideric Handel, Scarlatti is said to have been the better harpsichordist

while Handel was better at the organ. Although Scarlatti’s first big gig was in Rome writing operas for the exiled Polish Queen Marie Casimire, he is best known for the more than 550 short keyboard sonatas he wrote in the service of Maria Barbara, Princess of Portugal and subsequently Queen of Spain. These miniature masterpieces combine elements of contemporary comic opera, Iberian folk music, and Scarlatti’s own keyboard pyrotechnics.

Sirmen was born Maddalena Laura Lombardini and raised in a musical orphanage in Venice (not the Ospedale della Pieta made famous by Antonio Vivaldi). While living there she became a protégé of Giuseppe Tartini. She toured as a soloist and also with her husband, the violinist Ludovico Sirmen. Her published works include violin duets, trios, string quartets, and concertos.

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