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Missa Breve "La stella" : Work information

(Giuseppe) Domenico Scarlatti ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Ian Watson (Organ), Libby Crabtree (Soprano), Robin Jeffrey (Theorbo), Angus Davidson (Counter-tenor), Neil MacKenzie (Tenor), Simon Birchall (Bass), Sixteen, Harry Christophers (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Missa Breve "La stella"
Work number
1709-01-01 02:01:00

This recording

Mark Brown
Mike Hatch
Recording date
1997-04-01 01:00:00

The Composers

(Giuseppe) Domenico Scarlatti

Taught by his father Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico was appointed composer and organist at the Royal Chapel at Naples in 1701, aged just 16.  Two years later his first operas, Ottavia restituita al trono and Il Giustino were performed in the same city.  He continued his studies with Gasparini, moving to Venice to do so in 1705, and in 1709 to Rome.  There he met Handel and engaged him in an amicable contest of keyboard skills - the audience declared Handel the victor at the organ, but Scarlatti was more formidable when it came to the harpsichord.

Between 1709 and 1714 he was maestro di cappella to the Queen of Poland in her palace in Rome.  He composed operas and oratorios for her court theatre, but was lured away with the same position at the Vatican.  Many believe that after his resignation in 1720 he travelled to London, but although his works were performed there at this time there is no evidence that he was there himself.  He did, however, go to Lisbon, to work at the court of Princess Maria Barbara, whose marriage to a Spanish prince in 1729 took him to Madrid.  He was to stay there for the rest of his life.

Scarlatti founded a school in Madrid; leaving aside his operatic career he concentrated on instrumental teaching, in particular the harpsichord.  It was on this instrument that Scarlatti was to leave perhaps his most enduring legacy - over 600 pieces for keyboard, mainly one-movement sonatas.  Their flair, freedom of form and largely homophonic style served as a model to his pupils, chief amongst whom was Antonio Soler.

Domenico died in Madrid in 1757, but his legacy was sustained by those who drew inspiration from his extravagant keyboard style; amongst those who edited his sonatas were the Romantic virtuosi Czerny, Tausig and Sauer.

- MIDI FILE - Fuga for harpsichord (1'48'')

Track listing

  • Kyrie 3:48 min
  • Gloria 5:24 min
  • Credo 7:46 min
  • Sanctus 1:44 min
  • Cibavit eos 4:11 min
  • Agnus Dei 1:50 min


Although Scarlatti's church music is, in general, difficult to date, the mass La stella has remained in the archives of S Maria Maggiore since Scarlatti wrote it in 1708-9. Written in a mix of styles, it displays none of the daring of Scarlatti's harpsichord music, a trait common to the composer's other vocal music and to the works of his contemporaries Byrd and Frescobaldi.

In its mixture of stile antico (old style) and stile misto (a middle ground between the stile antico and stile moderno or modern style), the mass is fairly unusual, however. The Credo and following sections exemplify the old-fashioned Renaissance polyphony typical of the stile antico, while the Gloria and Kyrie employ a stile misto that was later used to great effect in Scarlatti's most famous sacred work, the Stabat mater.