Scarlatti’s complaint

April 28, 2008


I was puzzled to see the name “Scarlatti” on my calendar this morning for an eleven o’clock. My assistant, who can be a bear when it comes to scaring away people that I don’t need to see, said it was impossible to deny this man. She said he was a man with a strong Italian accent and finally agreed for a half hour appointment.

I began to think whether I’ve had students whose last names were the same as composers. I couldn’t think of any. Beethoven, Mozart, Berlioz, Stravinsky, Puccini, Verdi, Stockhousen, Berio, Josquin, and so on. Although I hear there are a pair of Bartok twins who are famous in porn, and of course Wagner is rather common. Poor John Adams’ google rankings have probably plummeted since the John Adam mini-series aired this season. But Scarlatti was in the first category. Could this be a great-great grandson of THE Domenico Scarlatti? Pshaw, of course not.

Promptly at 11 am, the door burst open and an elderly gentleman, or wait, he has a powdered wig and as he raced towards me with his hand extended, a waft of stench came over me that made me involuntarily wince, and then went into auto-correct mode and smiled and shook his sweaty hand. It was Domenico Scarlatti.

He began speaking in Italian at a fast clip until I grabbed him and told him that I don’t speak Italian. He smiles, and raised both arms in the air as to embrace me, and then spouted out what was probably five single spaced pages of text, seemingly without a breath. I blinked. My memory is not good enough to remember his exact words, but the gist of it was the following.

“I have become the Salieri of the Baroque. It was JS Bach who was the pinnacle of that era in the opinion of the present day, and this is unfair. We teach our students Bach this and Bach that as if no one else mattered. Listen to this.”

He sat down and dashed off one his little binary firey sonatas with great passion and power.

“Now tell me THAT is not worth studying!”

My mouth was still open, and I realized that I was staring at him. I snapped out of it.

“Mr Salieri, er, Scarlatti, I agree whole-heartedly that you SHOULD be taught and valued more. Why, I could imagine an entire class to playing, arranging and studying your work.”

He looked at me, and his face became a huge smile. Once again he raised his arms as though gesturing towards the heavens, and he disappeared.

The door opened and my assistant came in and said, “Your 11 o’clock is here shall I send him in?”

And in came my student for his weekly composition lesson.

“Should I come back?” he said.

“No, no, I was just daydreaming…”

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