By the eighteenth century, Palermo-born Alessandro Scarlatti was the most widely performed Italian composer of vocal music having written more than sixty operas and well over a hundred cantatas. The cantata, more concentrated than opera, was considered at that time as the higher artistic form. Scarlatti was extremely prolific and many of his works including cantatas still remain unrecorded.
Le astuzie femminili (Feminine wiles) is an dramma giocoso in four acts by Domenico Cimarosa with an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Palomba (it). The opera buffa premiered at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples, Italy, on 26 August 1794. The opera was subsequently performed in Barcelona in 1795, Lisbon in 1797, Vienna in 1799, Paris in 1802, and London in 1804, remaining popular during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Although not performed often today, the opera is still occasionally revived and a number of recordings have been made.
…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.
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.
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)…