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Scarlatti: L'olimpia; L'arianna; Su Le Sponde Del Tebro / Fernandez, De Lisa

Release Date: 06/26/2012 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777748   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alessandro Scarlatti
Performer:  Adriana Fernández
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De' Cavalieri
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A. SCARLATTI Cantatas: L’Olimpia; L’Arianna; Su le sponde del Tebro Marcello Di Lisa, cond; Adrianna Fernandez (sop); Gabriele Cassone (tpt); Concerto de’ Cavalieri (period instruments) CPO 777 748 (48:41 Text and Translation)

Last year the Concerto de’ Cavalieri released, as part of their Baroque project, selections from the operas of Alessandro Scarlatti on a disc that had me craving for more. Now, they have returned to this composer with a Read more selection of three cantatas for soprano, including the famous Su le sponde with its brilliant trumpet solo. In his excellent and thorough booklet notes, conductor Marcello Di Lisa states that he has chosen these works based upon the topos of abandoned lovers, a not infrequent subject for poetry and vocal works of any period. Here there are three myths: Ariadne dumped by Theseus, Olimpia from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso who goes all the way before being thrown over by Bireno, and Amintas, a sort of naïve shepherd who keeps getting trashed by various nymphs (and we all know we can’t really trust them, right?). Given that there is little accurate information about the chronology of Scarlatti’s huge number of works in this genre, a topical order works as well as any, and in this case has provided a nice continuum of cantatas that fit together well. As far as one can tell, these all date from around the last decade of the 17th century, though the somewhat more primitive structure of L’Olimpia may indicate an even earlier period in his career. Of course, it is not known who these may have been written for, but the texts are somewhat commonplace for the time.

The music of each cantata consists of an introduction, generally quite short, followed by a succession of recitatives and arias, usually three, but L’Arianna actually concludes on an accompanied recitative, making for a more dramatic structure. Scarlatti’s use of the opening instrumental sinfonia is quite varied. In L’Olimpia the rapid-fire three movement form with spun out arpeggios in imitation in the violins at the beginning and a stylized old-fashioned dance at the end is much like Vivaldi, while the final cantata features a brilliant solo clarion trumpet line, for all the world like a page out of a difficult concerto. There is something very Handelian about the opening of L’Arianna , with its lengthy and largely cheerful bouncing rhythms of the second movement Bourée. As a composer of recitative, Scarlatti is a master at adapting the line to enhance the emotions. In the first one in Su le sponde , the voice interrupts the deliberate dialogue with rapid passage , in the finale to L’Arianna hope is ignited by a rising series of string suspensions into which the voice emerges like the rising of the sun. It is dramatic, effective, and extremely moving writing. The arias are all equally adept and theatrical, though the coloratura is more restrained in the majority. In “Infelici miei lumi” the preceding recitative merges imperceptibly into mournful suspensions, the close, dissonant harmony revealing the tortured emotions of the heroine, with her line sustained like a cloud above. In the two others with the trumpet, however, she competes with a highly melismatic solo line, reminding one of that alleged contest between Farinelli and a trumpet player noted by Charles Burney (though of course this predates any such duel). In L’Olimpia ’s first aria, a lament, the violins emerge in ritornello fashion, but Scarlatti allows for a darker color in the central section by switching to the viola. In the final aria of this cantata, “Quanto è simile,” the crisp sustained mezzo di voce of the voice reflects the steadfastness of the rock, while the violins represent the susurration of the waves by rather nicely done Spanish rhythms. These are only some of the continual parade of musical highlights that abound in the pieces on the disc.

In terms of the performances, the interpretation is, in my opinion, practically flawless. The tempos reflect the changes of the mood of the text, now raucous, now plaintive, and Di Lisa allows for a continuous flow of the music that rivets one’s attention to the drama. Indeed, the variations keep one’s attention and focus in anticipation of what comes next, the true method of subsuming the listener into the music. To say Scarlatti comes alive is an understatement, and this is due mostly to Di Lisa’s finely nuanced interpretation. Gabriele Cassone’s trumpet playing is Stentorian, nicely phrased and spot on pitch, while it is rare to have heard such a pure and expressive soprano as Adriana Fernandez. She handles lyricism and ornamentation with taste and a pure tone that most would die for. As this is the second disc of this year’s crop, both equally top class, I personally would have difficulty not putting both into my Want List for the year. Alas, should a third (or even fourth) appear to this excellent standard, I might be accused of becoming monomaniacal. This is one disc that everyone must have.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Il prigioniero fortunato: Su le sponde del Tebro by Alessandro Scarlatti
Performer:  Adriana Fernández (Soprano)
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De' Cavalieri
L'Arianna "Ebra d’amor fuggia" by Alessandro Scarlatti
Performer:  Adriana Fernández (Soprano)
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De' Cavalieri
Su la sponda del mare (L’Olimpia) by Alessandro Scarlatti
Performer:  Adriana Fernández (Soprano)
Conductor:  Marcello Di Lisa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto De' Cavalieri

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