The Kennedy Center

Domenico Alberti


Singer, harpsichordist, and composer Domenico Alberti was born in Venice, Italy, around 1710.  While little is known of his early life and education, he studied music with Antonio Lotti, noted composer, singer, and teacher.  During his short lifetime, Alberti was perhaps best known as a singer, frequently accompanying himself on the harpsichord.  While serving as Venetian ambassador to Spain (1736), he sang well enough in performance to impress the famous castrato singer Farinelli.
Alberti’s compositions included operas, songs, and sonatas for keyboard instruments.  His sonatas were written with a particular kind of arpeggiated accompaniment on the left hand, which was so much a part of his music that it became known as the Alberti bass.  The technique consists of a repeated pattern of regular broken chords with the lowest note sounding first, followed by the highest, then the middle, and the highest again, which sets the melody against a gently moving harmonic background.  Although it’s unlikely he originated the Alberti bass, he consistently used it, as did many others, including Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 
Alberti wrote approximately 36 sonatas, of which only 14 survive.  Each has two movements in binary form, i.e., two halves, roughly equal in length.  Even though Alberti’s compositions are rarely performed today, his work influenced later composers.  It is believed that Mozart’s first violin sonatas, written when he was seven, were modeled on Alberti’s work.  In addition, the Alberti bass became an important element in much of the keyboard music of the Classical music era.  Domenico Alberti died in 1740 in Rome, Italy.
Domenico Alberti