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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Historical Slander of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)

The great composer Domenico Scarlatti was an Italian working in the court of King Ferdinand VI of Spain. He was the music tutor of the king’s young wife, Maria Barbara. That is history. You can look it up. I’ve never read this anywhere else so you can say you heard it here first: Scarlatti was totally screwing her brains out. How hard could it have been for him to seduce his pupil? Domenico is a dashing and enormously talented musician...and he's Italian! Talk about shooting Spanish fish in a barrel!

He's spending hours a day alone with his lovely protégée. He corrects her gently on an intricate passage. He leans over her, their faces mere inches apart. He puts his hand softly on hers. “Your skin is so soft, like the feathers of a baby dove, but not when it first breaks out of the egg and it is all slimy and covered with yolk or whatever the hell that sticky stuff is inside the egg, but soft like when the feathers are dried out and no longer disgusting.” You almost feel sorry for her—she doesn’t have a chance against his incredible charm.

Her husband, the king, is too busy for her. She is supposed to look the other way as he dallies with every courtesan, chamber maid, serving wench, dress fitter, and stable boy in the realm. If the truth be told, the king is a disgusting pig and a miserable lover. He hasn't touched his wife in years. He’s the kind of guy who would rather watch Sports Center than pay the slightest bit of attention to his lovely and talented wife. I know that they didn’t have Sports Center back in the 1700s but you know the type. Did they have beer back then? If they did I’m sure that the king drank too much beer and often sat around in a filthy undershirt.

And along comes Scarlatti with his olive oil hair and his Guinea charm. He is like the Johnny Fontaine of his era, but chronologically he is way before the introduction of moving pictures, so a Godfather reference is inappropriate. You could say that Johnny Fontaine was the Scarlatti of The Godfather but I don’t want to stray too far off point. My point is that Scarlatti and Maria were getting their freak on right in the royal music room, probably on the piano. If they weren’t then they should have, considering what a slob the king was—at least in my version of the story.

Scarlatti wrote something like 560 piano sonatas. He didn’t name his sonatas; they are all just numbered. I haven’t counted them but I’m betting that one of those sonatas is numbered 69. My guess is that Scarlatti dedicated that sonata to Maria, if you get my drift. I don’t think that they were still using Roman numerals at this time because LXIX isn’t dirty and ruins this entire paragraph.

The queen is spending more and more time with Scarlatti. The king is becoming suspicious. Not only is the monarch a vulgar slob, he is also a jealous and possessive husband. “With all of the time you spend practicing the piano you must be a regular Billy Joel,” the king says to her accusingly. The truth is she can’t play a single tune since she and her teacher are so busy humping like monkeys. “I must hear you play.” The king arranges for Maria to perform a recital for the royal court.

Maria is terrified that the king will know that Scarlatti is pumping the royal foot pedals when he hears her miserable playing. At her next lesson she tells her tutor. She insists that she must start practicing. Scarlatti says that she can practice at their next lesson, today he wants to try out a few of the new toys he bought at the adult bookstore.

The date for Maria’s recital approaches yet she and her teacher can’t keep their hands off of each other long enough for Maria to peck out even a single set of scales. Scarlatti’s lust blinds him to the perils Maria faces. “Playing piano is easier than it looks,” he lies to her as he pulls her hoop skirt over her head with one hand, in the other he holds some fruit and whipped cream. “You have plenty of time to learn.” Maria tries to resist his advances so that she can get in a little time on the keyboard. In their compromise to satisfy Scarlatti’s carnal desires and Maria’s need to practice, the couple invents several positions not even hinted at in the encyclopedic Kama Sutra, perhaps its authors thought them too tawdry for inclusion.

The date for Maria’s concert approaches. Her fears grow that not only will she make a fool of herself exhibiting her pathetic music skills in front of a large audience, she is also terrified that her incompetence will be a confession that she and her teacher are making bacon instead of music. Scarlatti keeps a bag packed and sleeps with a flint-lock pistol under his pillow in case he has to make a hasty exit. He isn’t overly concerned. There are plenty of horny little tarts in other European courts who need a piano teacher.

The concert was never held. Maria was let off the hook because in a twist of fate not unlike a bad episode of “I Love Lucy,” along came a war or a famine and the king forgot all about the recital. The adulterous Scarlatti would go on to write more sonatas and debauch other young members of the European royalty.

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