Scarlatti's music forms an important link between the early Baroque Italian vocal styles of the 17th century, with their centers in Florence, Venice and Rome, and the classical school of the 18th century, which culminated in Mozart.
Alessandro Scarlatti’s 600-plus cantatas make him one of the more prolific exponents of a form that flourished in Italy in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Though he’s generally credited with standardising cantata form, his early essays in the genre were often imaginatively varied, as is shown by the delectable Arcadian Academy disc. Rather than the usual two or three da capo arias alternating with recitatives, the four secular cantatas here boast opening sinfonias, closing ariosos, large numbers of movements and a range of aria-types. Bella madre dei fiori, for example, experiments with a mix of poetic strophes and instrumental ritornelli. Even so, this formal ingenuity would be of limited interest were it not for Scarlatti’s gifts for attractive melody and sensitive illustration of his texts. Christine Brandes sings these pieces beautifully in a bright, clear-toned voice, and is given adroit, vivacious support by her five colleagues. La Famiglia Scarlatti offers two cantatas and two sonatas by Alessandro, together with a cantata apiece by brother Francesco and son Domenico. These are delightful performances, with Kai Wessel’s mellifluous alto a winning advocate, especially on the captivating Doppo lungo servire, Domenico’s earliest surviving work. Extensive and informative notes are a further bonus.–Graham Lock
Cinque Profeti is a little known Christmas cantata by Alessandro Scarlatti. It has a power and subtlety redolent of Handel coupled with touches of early Monteverdi. Sung here to great effect by the five soloists with sensitive instrumentalists, they play together to bring the gentle and subtle melodies - surely written to confer a sense of the special nature of the Christmas season - to life. It’s a recording which is sure to please. Opera was not performed in Rome for much of Alessandro Scarlatti's lifetime; that's why his vocal church music mostly comprised oratorios and cantatas, of which he wrote three for the Palazzo Apostolico. Only one survives: to a libretto by Silvio Stampiglia. Cinque Profeti takes the inventive form of a conversation between the five old testament prophets, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Abraham (the cinque profeti) about the birth of Christ – which was about to be celebrated on the occasion of the cantata’s first performance, in 1705 at the Papal Palace in Rome.
Alessandro Scarlatti was only 24 and had just begun his enormously successful operatic career when he set a libretto by that great Roman patron of the arts, Cardinal Pamphili, on the subject of repentance and divine grace. It was performed before a distinguished audience by a small group of leading singers and instrumentalists of the day in March 1685—the year of the birth of Alessandro's son Domenico (in fact, as a matter of interest, three days before the birth of J. S. Bach). This simple little morality (oratorio is too grandiose a term for it) shows Magdalen torn between youthful pleasures and repentance for hedonistic living: the subject is treated in a sequence of extremely brief arias (and a few duets) and recitatives, which add up to a rather bitty effect, all the more because of seemingly haphazard key-sequences. There is little evidence of the da capo aria form later to be so closely associated with Scarlatti: there are, however, several examples (as in the very first aria) of 'devise' openings.
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.
Alessandro Scarlatti formed the bridge between the rich vocal style of the Italian Baroque masters of the 17th century and the gallant style of Mozart and his contemporaries. San Filippo Neri is grand and Oratorio in Handelian style, full of dramatic arias and striking instrumental effects. Excellent performance on authentic instruments by the specialist group Alessandro Stradella Consort, conducted by Estevan Velardi.
With this exciting release, Fabio Biondi, the outstanding Europa Galante, and a cast led by stars Véronique Gens and Vivica Genaux strike a decisive blow for Alessandro Scarlatti's obscure Oratorio per la Santissima Trinità. Old-fashioned even in its day, the work is a musicalized instructional debate about the mysteries of the Holy Trinity between the allegorical personae of Faith, Theology, Faithlessness, Time, and Divine Love. If you're asleep already, it's for good reason. The libretto is the definition of dry – boring both for its rhetorical contrivance and its verbosity. But before you run for the nearest exit, know that Scarlatti responded to this uninspired mess of ideological bickering with outstanding music, entertaining from beginning to end. Drawing only on a small ensemble of strings and continuo, he created an improbably diverse-sounding score full of infectious rhythms, appealing vocal melodies, and rich textures. The recitatives are lavished with the same melodic care and detail as the arias and ensembles, and the personality of each character is etched into his music. Listening, one might think the plot revolves around a love affair, or a social intrigue. Certainly not wave upon wave of phrases like "One cannot believe it, but only raise one's eyebrows in stupefaction." In other words, if you can ignore the text it's an immensely fun listen, and a great example of the stylistic fluidity of Scarlatti's music in 1715.