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
…Fine motets by Stradella and Bassani make this disc worth investigation. …violinist Patrick Cohën-Akenine with his excellent bad Les Folies Françoises play with resonant warmth, particularly in two dynamically charged Corelli sonatas.(Gramophone Magazine)
There are some real injustices in the business of recorded music and this disc brings one of them very much to light. The opening lines of the liner notes say, "Until relatively recently, the reputation of Alessandro Scarlatti – the son, brother, father and uncle of other illustrious musicians – was overshadowed by that of his son Domenico." It is not stated on this disc whether the notes were written to go with this Apex re-issue or whether they date from the same period as the recording, but Alessandro’s reputation, if he has one, is still very much under his wonderful son’s shadow. It is an indication of a massive injustice, that this re-issue goes some small way to correcting.
The biblical story of the princess Judith, who seduces and then beheads the invading Assyrian general Holofernes, has attracted composers from the early days of opera almost down to the present day with its mixture of gore, patriotic self-sacrifice, and latent feminist themes.
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’s St John Passion was the first Passion setting written in seventeenth-century Italy. Scarlatti treats the role of the Evangelist (composed in the mezzo-soprano register) in highly unusual fashion, giving his narrative numerous emotional passages. The Voice of Christ (bass) is invariably haloed by a string accompaniment.
Italian composer Giovanni Battista Buonamente, a member of the Franciscan order, gained renown throughout Europe as a violinist, singer and choirmaster. He began his career as the Gonzaga court in Mantua, later becoming a chamber musician at the Viennese court of Ferdinand II and his final post was as chapel master at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, where he remained until his death in 1643 and his compositions many characteristics of the early Italian Baroque.