Alessandro Scarlatti is justly famed for his contributions to Read more opera seria and cantata, and indeed it may even be said that he was one of the main progenitors of the Neapolitan style of the early 18th century. In Naples and earlier in Rome he was obligated to write a considerable amount of sacred music, much of it for smaller settings that would be useful in the local churches. Since his music is now becoming more common on disc, it is good to have this recording of a set of four pieces—a gradual, a Marian antiphon, a motet, and a Psalm—all of which reflect rather different approaches to each portion of the liturgy and yet contain a certain commonality in form and structure. Interspersed within these, and no doubt both to provide a transition between then and to fill out the disc, are three organ works, two of which are of substantial length. Given that Scarlatti’s pieces for this instrument are not common, their appearance here is a real treat.
Since the very dawn of the compact disc era, Ralph Kirkpatrick's seminal recordings of Domenico Scarlatti have mainly been conspicuous only by their absence from the active catalog. It's hard be sure just why, as all along listeners and reviewers alike have been requesting their return. Kirkpatrick's Bach has been reissued here and there, along with some oddities, including a live, all twentieth century recital Kirkpatrick performed in 1961, released on Music and Arts. But of the Scarlatti, nothing - how could the man who put the "K." in Scarlatti go neglected; were not his performances once considered the acme in Scarlatti played on the harpsichord?
Alessandro Scarlatti was both the most celebrated vocal composer of his day, and one of the most prolific to ever live. In his lifetime (1660-1725) he composed nearly 700 cantatas and 66 operas. He was also far more famous then than his son Domenico, whose harpsichord sonatas today have all but completely eclipsed his father's works.
It is surprising to me that with all the recent interest in Baroque opera this recording has not become better-known. The entire cast (and Mirella Freni in particular) do a tremendous job, proving that La Griselda, Scarlatti's last and finest opera, really does deserve a place in the permanent repetoire. The entire work overflows with moments of breath-stopping beauty and resplendant melody (as in the aria da capo form that Scarlatti helped to popularize)…
This series of Italian cantatas by three eminent contemporaries makes for refined and focused listening.
Cencic…marries virtuosity with colour. The result is singing of great reach and range, in which verbal sensitivity and bravura execution are usually put at the service of the music.
Il Martirio di Sant'Orsola was probably written and sung in Rome between 1695 and 1700. The identification of the author of the libretto and the circumstances of composition remain unknown. The handwritten score and its separate parts, preserved in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon and returned here, is indeed the only European version of the work. It was copied for the Academy of Fine Arts of Lyon to which it belonged, probably by amateurs bringing back from their travels many works, as evidenced by the importance of the Italian music in the funds Lyons. The orators of Scarlatti were played from 1718 to 1731 at the Academy.
Scarlatti's cantatas are veritable opera miniatures in wich his writing for the voice, highlights the expressive powers of the various affects of love : love the pleasure-seeker, love the tyrant, love the traitor and love the combatant. Voice and instruments are unite in an inventive spirit of virtuoso rivalry, laying bare the passions of the soul.