When I prepared for listening to and reviewing this disc I found
myself in two minds. On the one hand I don't like it when the name
of the artist rather than of the composer dominates the title page.
The latter is definitely more important than the former. On the other
hand I have much sympathy for the way the programme has been put together.
In the interview in the booklet Dominique Corbiau is asked why he
didn't select the famous arias from the baroque period for his first
recital disc. He replies that these have been recorded so often and
"often so beautifully!" He then says that there is much more which
deserves to be discovered. He has become especially interested in
the oeuvre of Alessandro Scarlatti. He characterises it as "infinitely
rich, full of originality and especially with beautiful melodies at
the same time simple and refined, highlighting the voice without straining
As I am a great admirer of Scarlatti's music I can only share Corbiau's
feelings. The more I hear compositions from his pen the more I am
inclined to think that he was indeed one of the towering figures of
the Italian baroque. Historically he is of great importance as well.
He cemented the form of the chamber cantata which was then followed
by many composers of the next generations, including the likes of
Vivaldi and Handel. It was Scarlatti who laid the foundation of the
Italian opera overture as we know it from numerous operas of the 18th
century. During his career he also made a sharper distinction between
recitative and aria. He made more use of the accompanied recitative
which was effective in marking especially dramatic moments in an opera
or oratorio. Scarlatti's contributions to the genre of the oratorio
bear witness to its increasingly dramatic character and its development
in the direction of opera. These two genres are represented in this
programme, and so is a third: the serenata. As such works were mostly
written for specific occasions of a festive nature they are generally
more light-hearted and sometimes included 'popular' elements as the
extracts from Venere, Amore e Ragione
In two of the arias the performers make use of percussion. As I don't
have a complete recording of this work and didn't have access to the
score I don't know whether this is prescribed or at least suggested
by the composer. The same goes for the opening of the programme. It
is used in the sinfonias from Gli equivoci nel Sembiante
L'amor volubile e tiranno
. The addition of percussion in the
aria 'Aure, fonti' from Il Ciro
is probably most questionable
as the content doesn't suggest its participation. It is a rather lyrical
piece: "Breezes, fountains, flowers and herbs, shadows, bushes, enchanting
birds, you caress my mind".
This is an example of the kind of pieces Corbiau has selected which
emphasize the more intimate and introverted side of Scarlatti's compositions.
They seem to suit his voice particularly well. One of the highlights
is the aria 'Dormi o fulmine di guerra', a lullaby for Holofernes,
sung by the nurse in La Giuditta
, about the well-known story
of Judith who aims at liberating Betulia. This aria is from the so-called
'Cambridge Giuditta', for three solo voices. Another fine piece is
the aria 'Col suo flebil mormorio' from the oratorio Le Vergine
. The text is eloquently expressed in the music: "With
a fragile whisper the river said 'Come, mingle your tears'". The strings
depict the murmuring of the waves. In the B section the text mentions
the nightingale and here an obbligato part is given to the recorder.
According to Corbiau it plays offstage; in this performance it is
a shade too loud in comparison to the voice.
The use of instruments is one of the interesting aspects of this disc.
In various arias instruments such as the transverse flute, the oboe
and the bassoon have obbligato parts. Corbiau's voice perfectly matches
the flute in the aria 'Come di fronda in fronda' from l'Amor volubile
. In the lullaby from La Giuditta
I have already
mentioned that we hear a harp playing a solo part. It is beautifully
played, but I wondered where that part comes from. In the complete
recording under the direction of Gilbert Bezzina (Dynamic 2009) only
strings are involved.
Before you come to the conclusion that this is a disc full of softness
and sweetness, there are some excerpts from Il Primo Omicidio
- about Cain murdering his brother Abel - where Corbiau shows that
he has considerable dramatic talents as well. In the last section,
the excerpts from Venere, Amore e Ragione
he shows his extrovert
I am generally quite pleased by Corbiau's performances. I had never
heard him before, but I hope to hear more from him in the future.
He has a pleasant voice with a warm timbre. His diction is very good
and as a result the texts are always clearly audible. That is not
obvious in recordings like this. I have some doubts about several
cadences which seem more extended than was common in Scarlatti's time.
I wonder whether these are a bit anachronistic. As I have already
noted I also have my doubts about the use of percussion and, generally,
about the liberties the performers have taken.
That said this disc is interesting in regard to repertoire as - according
to the booklet - it includes no fewer than nine first recordings.
Musically there is much to enjoy here and this recording bears witness
to the quality and versatility of the composer as well as the quality
of Corbiau and the orchestra.
Johan van Veen
Gli equivoci nel Sembiante (1679):
Il Ciro (1712):
Aure, fonti, aria [3:46]
L'Amor volubile e tiranno (1709):
Quanto grata e questo core, aria [4:43]
Come di fronda in fronda, aria [4:03]
Il Ciro (1712):
Quel che piace, aria [2:39]
Colomba innamorata, aria [4:57]
Il David (1700):
La Giuditta (1697):
Dormi o fulmine di guerra, aria [5:45]
Il Primo Omicidio (1707):
sinfonia avanti la voce di Dio [2:22]
L'olocausto del tuo Abelle, aria [3:24]
Or di strage - Come mostro, rec acc & aria [2:17]
Le Vergine Addolorata (1717):
Col suo flebil mormorio, aria [6:32]
Venere, Amore e Ragione (1706):
Quella ninfa, aria [3:02]
O pastorelle, aria [3:13]
Un vero amore, aria [2:38]