home > list of works > chamber & ensembles > five or more instruments > Variaciones sobre dos temas de Scarlatti / Variations on two themes by Scarlatti

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Portrait painted in 1738 by Domingo Antonio Velasco
(Casa dos Patudos, Alpiarça, Portugal)

Variaciones sobre dos temas de Scarlatti / Variations on two themes by Scarltti

For Sextet

Analysis and research works
Download score


Written for a woodwind-string double trio (flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and cello), Variations on two themes by Scarlatti respond to the classic formal structure of "Theme with Variations", something strange nowadays, but widely used in the classical and romantic periods. The basic difference between these variations and those of that time is that it is not a question of chaining a series of different sections together, but with a common harmonic or melodic link, but rather, maintaining the same formal scheme to which that led (exposition of the theme , followed by as many isolated sections as variations, topped by an optional coda), the variations here become small "developments" of cells, also small, which can be both melodic and harmonic, rhythmic or even formal, always derived from elements from the two themes put into play, from the sonatas K. 146, in G major (Theme A), and the one made up of the famous Cat’s Fugue, K. 30, in G minor (Theme A). B).

Recording: Sonata in G major, K. 146 (Vladimir Horowitz)

Recording: Sonata en G minor ("The Cat's Fugue"), K. 30 (Scott Ross)

Thus, after an exposition in which the two themes appear fragmented and intertwined in a changing and contrasting way (tempi, characters and timbres, since each theme of each sonata is entrusted to one of the two trios), to merge towards the end causing some bimodal overlays, a total of six variations and a coda take place, organized according to the following scheme:

Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in G major, K. 146. Theme A, 1st element

Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in G mayor, K. 146. Theme A, 2nd element

Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata en G major, K. 146. Theme A, 3rd element

Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata en G minor (The Cat's Fugue), K. 30

1st Variation: Development in the form of arpeggios of the chords of Theme A, as well as the first two notes of Theme B, within the formal scheme of Theme A (monothematic classical sonata).
2nd Variation: "Timbral" development of the head of Theme B, accompanied by a sequence of dry and percussive chords.
3rd Variation: Arpeggiated development, on the woodwinds, of the second element of Theme A.
4th Variation: Fugato on The Cat's Fugue (Theme B). Without any type of separation, it is chained with the
5th Variation: Development in the chord of the third element of Theme A, within the formal scheme of said theme.
6th Variation: Development of elements derived from both themes. Without a break in continuity, it gives way to a coda in which, together with a development in the oboe at the head of Theme A, various repetitive structures are "self-generated", leading to a final stretta.

Program of the premiere

The Variations on two themes by Scarlatti were composed in 1985 by commission of the Autumn Festival of the Community of Madrid, destined for the "II Spanish Music Week", called The past in the music of our time and dedicated on that occasion to the figure of Domenico Scarlatti in the 3rd centenary of his birth. The premiere took place on October 17, 1985 within said Festival, in the Juan de Villanueva Hall of the Prado Museum in Madrid, by the Círculo Ensemble under the direction of José Luis Temes.

The Círculo Ensemble, in 1989

In 1990 they were included in the CD "Compositores en Madrid" of the Madrid Fine Arts Circle, in a version by the Círculo Ensemble under the direction of José Luis Temes. The same recording was part of the 6th monographic CD "Contemporary Spanish Music", published in 1991 by the GASA label. Finally, in 2013 they were included on the CD "José Luis Turina. Chamber Music", in the BBVA Foundation's collection of Spanish and Latin American Composers of Current Music, performed by the Plural Ensemble conducted by Fabián Panisello.

Cover of the CD Composers in Madrid (1990)

Cover of the CD Contemporary Spanish music (1991)

Cover of the CD José Luis Turina. Chamber music (2013)

The variations of Theme A are dedicated to José Luis García del Busto, and those of Theme B to Alfredo Aracil, coordinators of said "Spanish Music Week", and therefore persosn incharge of the commission.

Analysis and research works

In 2016, the musicologist Marina Hervás Fierro dedicated her End-of-Degree Project in the History and Sciences of Music degree at the University of Valladolid to the Variations on two themes by Scarlatti, with the title The look at the past in José Luis Turina, including an exhaustive analysis of the work.


Recording: Plural Ensemble (cond.: Fabián Panisello)

YouTube link

First page of the Variations on two themes by Scaarlatti


Four premieres in the Spanish Week
By Leopoldo Hontañón
(Review published in the newspaper "ABC". Madrid, octubre 19, 1985)

The other three absolute premieres corresponded to the Week's commissions by Manuel Seco (1958) and José Luis Turina (1952) -transcription of the Sonata for harpsichord, K. 545, by Scarlatti, for wind quintet, percussion, violin and cello, and Variations on two themes by Scarlatti, for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and cello, respectively- and the Deux encores..., for piano, by Miguel Ángel Coria (1937). Seco's work makes it necessary to put the term transcription in quotation marks, so much is the entity of the transcriber's contribution and so much the intrinsic interest of the result, in which the imaginative timbre remodeling of the melody keeps the attention in permanent suspense and offers enormous appeal. The same happens with that of José Luis Turina and in a triple sense: interconnection that is achieved in the presentation of the two themes: wealth of variative invention, in a clear approach to the strict semantic meaning of our "differences"; ingenious gradual separation, very logically arranged, from the language from which it starts.

Composers of today
By Enrique Franco
(Review published in the newspaper El País. Madrid, October 16, 1991)

José Luis Turina (Madrid, 1952) takes us through Six Variations on Themes by Scarlatti, a Berio-like experience revealing an absolute mastery of technique. Turina expresses himself with precision from her first work, but here he does it to the maximum degree, perhaps to serve the demand for an art as concise, neat, regular-irregular as that of Spanishized Italian, always from the point of view and the language owned by Don Joaquín's grandson.[...]

Download pdf

(Score and parts without watermarks available at www.asesores-musicales.com )