Francesco Scarlatti

(1666 – after 1741)

Italian composer, younger brother of Alessandro, born in Palermo, Sicily. Sicily then being part of the Kingdom of Naples, and tuition at that city's four conservatori being free, it was natural for his parents, both musicians, to send him there to study. He was appointed violinist of the Royal Chapel in 1684, where he remained seven years. After his marriage in 1691 he returned to Palermo, no doubt to take up various posts as maestro of different institutions in the city.

The turning point in his life came in 1715 when he applied for the post of Vice-Kapellmeister at the Imperial Court of Vienna. As proof of his ability, he sent the Miserere, and a serenata. Despite the support of J.J.Fux, the recently-appointed Kapellmeister, he was passed over in favor of Caldara. This was no disgrace, as the Venetian was an able contrapuntist (a quality much prized at the Emperor's court), and furthermore the Emperor had known him for twenty years. One may suppose also that Fux's opinion carried less weight in 1715 than it would have done later.

Scarlatti returned to Palermo until at least 1719, but the same year was in London, where he performed in a concert. By an intriguing coincidence, Domenico Scarlatti, his nephew, was also supposed to be in London by this date, having left his position as maestro di cappella of the Capella Giulia in Rome to go to England. Domenico, however, never went, and was next heard of in Palermo. Did Francesco go to London in his place to see what possibilities were open? We cannot know. What is certain is that in 1720 he was recommended for a position with the Duke of Chandos, for whom Handel had composed his Chandos anthems and Acis and Galatea. For reasons which for the moment are obscure, this came to nothing. And the obscurity remains almost total to the end of his life. Apart from a London concert in 1724 he passes out of view for the next thirteen years. By 1733 he was in Dublin, where he posted a notice in a newspaper, declining responsibility for the debts of his second wife, Jane “who hath elop'd from her husband.” He is last heard of in “distressful circumstances thro’ a long confinement by sickness” - the beneficiary of a benefit concert there in 1741.

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