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.
After being kept in relative obscurity the music of Alessandro Scarlatti is making a glorious come back, and is recognised as at least as innovative, brilliant and profound as the music of his son, the famous Domenico Scarlatti. These “12 sinfonie di concerto grosso” are concertante works, either for a variety of solo instruments (concerto grosso) or for solo recorder and strings. These are delightful baroque concertos, brimming with energy, Italian charm and gusto. Played by Early Music group Capella Tiberina on historical instruments, Corina Marti is the recorder soloist, who already excelled in her recording of the Mancini recorder concertos on Brilliant Classics (BC 94324).
Theatrical chamber music might appear to be a contradiction in terms, but the unlikely idea is fulfilled by these sparkling, highly wrought trio sonatas. For despite their title, that is what they are: most composers of the 18th century may have used the sonata designation for this form, but Alessandro Stradella employed at least several of these works as preludes or overtures to his dramatic and sacred works such as the oratorio Susanna (already recorded on Brilliant Classics, BC94345).
The slaying of Abel by his brother Cain was one of the favourite subjects of the 18th century Italians, at the time when the oratorio was having a phenomenal success in Rome and Venice. It was most probably in one of the palaces of the “Serenissima”, and not a church, that Scarlatti first performed this astonishing “sacred entertainment”, worthy of a “verismo” opera, in 1707… God and Lucifer confront each other in the very soul of Cain, his brother’s voice is heard from heaven, and the “spatial” treatment of the tonal levels all contribute to the effectiveness of what is almost expressionistic music – there is nothing left out of this incredible Baroque Biblical “thriller”!
The edition for this premiere recording has been made by Karl Böhmer, who has provided an informative introductory essay, and Oliver Mattern. Gérard Lesne has made something of a speciality of Scarlatti’s music and his lively direction of Sedecia benefits from his fluent handling of dramatic and stylistic aspects of the work…A splendid achievement. (BBC Music Magazine)
With this recording, the Purcell Quartet reach the mid-point in their six-part series of chamber music based on La Jolla, and although this CD is devoted to Geminiani, the only work on that tune is, in fact, his concerto grosso arrangement of Corelli's variations for violin (Op. 5 No. 12). In addition, they have chosen the G minor Concerto grosso (distinguished by Geminiani's remarkable concertino viola part, played to good effect by Alan George), two of Geminiani's original solo sonatas (giving Catherine Mackintosh and Elizabeth Wallfisch moments in which to shine) and trio arrangements of two of his violin sonatas.
Alessandro Scarlatti wrote over 600 cantatas, two of which are on this 1987 disc performed by soprano Lynne Dawson and the Purcell Quartet: Correa nel seno amato and Già lusingato appieno. He wrote considerably less keyboard music – and next to nothing compared with the gargantuan achievement of his son Domenico – one of which is on this disc performed by Robert Woolley, the harpsichordist of the Purcell Quartet: the Variations on La Folia. With the chamber cantatas flanking the keyboard variations, this disc is a wonderful program of the elder Scarlatti's art. Though there are some who might argue English soprano Dawson is perhaps too reserved for this repertoire, none would argue that she doesn't have a clear voice and a supple technique. And while there are others who might argue the Purcell Quartet is perhaps too stringent for the repertoire, none would argue they don't play together with consummate ease and they don't accompany Dawson with brilliant mastery. But there are few who would disparage Woolley's blindingly virtuosic and blazingly demonic La Folia Variations.