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Alessandro Scarlatti: Sacred Works

Scarlatti / Mingardo / Cto Cavalieri / Di Lisa
Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777476   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alessandro Scarlatti
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De’cavalieri
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



A. SCARLATTI Benedicta et venerabilis es. Salve Regina. Mortales non auditis. Nisi Dominus. Varie partite obbligate al basso. Toccata VIII. Toccata per organo Marcello di Lisa, cond; Gemma Bertagnolli, Adriana Fernandez (sop); Sara Mingardo (alt); Martin Oro (ct); Furio Zanasi (ten); Antonio Abete (bs); Concerto de’ Cavalieri (period instruments) CPO 777 476 (68:12 Text and Translation)


Alessandro Scarlatti is justly famed for his contributions to Read more the 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.


Three of the four pieces are scored for two solo voices and choral punctuation, chorus in this case being additional solo voices. In the recording of the gradual Benedicta et venerabilis es , they weave in and out of the soloists, providing a nice foil for the “Quae sine tactu” second movement, or a nice bit of counterpoint to the Nisi Dominus’ s final Amen. The solo parts are the focus, however, from the Vivaldian pastoral of the former, to the lyrical parallels of the Mortales non auditis or the antiphonal responses in the “Et mundo genuisti” of the Benedicta. In the solemn processional of “Qui manducatis” of the Nisi Dominus , the alto voice merges into the choral parts, rising out of the homophonic line with ease and grace. All of these works demonstrate that Scarlatti was a master of vocal music, knowing when to unleash the often tortuous melismatic coloratura and when to hold it back for simplicity.


Of the organ pieces, if one is expecting a North German sound of a Buxtehude or Bach, these will seem rather more simple, but the careful unfolding of the lines is elegant, restrained, and altogether more integrated to a musical service than extensive virtuosity.


You might notice that I have avoided the antiphon Salve Regina in this brief excursus. The reason is that, of the five vocal items attributed to Scarlatti, this one is the most problematic. Not only is it bound alongside a Pange lingua attributed to Francesco Provenzale, another minor figure of Neapolitan church music, the first thing that strikes one immediately upon listening is that sections of the Salve Regina and “Ad te clamamus” are practically note-for-note equal to Giovanni Pergolesi’s justly famed Stabat Mater . Indeed, comparatively speaking, the style of this work is so Pergolesian that it could only have been written in the 1730s, several years after Scarlatti’s death. The writer of the booklet notes, Luca della Libera, hints that this might be the case, but he stops short of saying so; I would venture to guess that Scarlatti has little to do with this Salve Regina , though this does not of course have a bearing on the quality of this highly dramatic work with its gorgeous vocal suspensions in the “Ad te suspiramus” or the mournful “Eja ergo.”


The performances are extremely accurate and, what is more, bring this music to life. Gemma Bertagnolli’s soprano is crisp and clear, and her ornamentation, sometimes difficult and extensive such as the sinuous “Sicut sagite” in the Nisi Dominus, is sharp and focused. Her soprano counterpart, Adriana Fernandez, has a slightly darker tone to her voice, but she too handles the rapid-fire ornaments with skill and ease, for example in the “Eja surgite” of the Mortales non auditis . What is more, both blend well together completely in tune with the running violin lines. Add to this a fabulous pair of contraltos, Sara Mingardo and countertenor Martin Oro, who are equally adept, and you have an absolutely first-rate ensemble. Mingardo’s “Sicut sagittae” in the Nisi Dominus makes it clear where Vivaldi got his notion of the coloratura in his Psalm setting of the same name. Add to this a secure tenor in Furio Zanasi and you have the makings of a first-rate group of voices (basso Antonio Abete is likewise fine but has a limited role as a soloist). Andrea Coen’s registration in the organ works is extremely subtle with nice contrasts and no bombast. As for Concerto de’ Cavalieri, Marcello di Lisa delivers a group that is precise, accurate in terms of pitch, and blends well. His tempos are spot-on, never rushing but always creating an atmosphere that is musical. This allows for this wonderful music to speak for itself. While a couple of the works have been recorded before, mainly the Nisi Dominus with Suzanne Rydén and Nicholas McGegan on Avie and the Salve Regina by the Ensemble Gradiva on Accord back in 2002, this recording sets a new standard. My only desire is that this group begin to explore the huge amount of music of the Neapolitan region; that would be a real service to the world of music. One disc that will appear on my Want List for this year!


FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

1. Benedicta et venerabilis es by Alessandro Scarlatti
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De’cavalieri
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
2. Salve Regina by Alessandro Scarlatti
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De’cavalieri
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
3. Mortales non auditis by Alessandro Scarlatti
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De’cavalieri
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1702; Italy 
4. Nisi Dominus aedificaverit by Alessandro Scarlatti
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De’cavalieri
Period: Baroque 

Sound Samples

Benedicta et venerabilis es
Benedicta et venerabilis es: Quae sine tactu pudoris
Benedicta et venerabilis es: Virgo dei genetrix
Benedicta et venerabilis es: Alleluia
Benedicta et venerabilis es: Et mundo genuisti
Varie partite obbligate al basso
Salve regina
Salve regina: Ad te clamamus
Salve regina: Ad te suspiramus
Salve regina: Eja ergo
Salve regina: Et Jesum benedictum
Salve regina: O clemens
Toccata No. 2
Mortales non auditis
Mortales non auditis: Eja surgite
Mortales non auditis: Ut quid ergo torpentes
Mortales non auditis: Aurae, venti
Mortales non auditis: O quam formosa aurora
Mortales non auditis: Auroram sic raram
Mortales non auditis
Toccata d'ottava stesa
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Nisi Dominus
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Vanum est
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Qui manducatis
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Cum dederit
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Ecce hereditas
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Sicut sagittae
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Beatus vir
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Non confundetur
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Gloria
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Sicut erat
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit: Amen

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