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Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Opera Overtures and Concertos
Il prigioniero fortunato – Sinfonia (1698) [3:14]
Concerto grosso No. 3 in F major [6:59]
La caduta de’ Decemviri – Sinfonia (1697) [4:44]
Concerto grosso No. 1 in F minor [7:10]
Concerto grosso No. 6 in E major [7:05]
Scipione nelle Spagne – Sinfonia (1714) [2:26]*
Concerto grosso No. 5 in D minor [5:01]
Concerto grosso No. 4 in G minor [6:33]
La donna ancora fedele – Sinfonia (1698) [2:06]*
Concerto grosso No. 2 in C minor [6:50]
L’amazzone corsara – Sinfonias Acts I & III (1689) [1:11]*
Concerto de’ Cavalieri/Marcello Di Lisa
rec. March 2015, Pontificio Istituto de Musica Sacra Roma
* premiere recordings
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88985 370012 [54:03]

Recording- and performance-wise, Scarlatti senior has been in the shadow of his son, presumably due to all those keyboard sonatas. Nonetheless, there is no doubt historically that Alessandro Scarlatti was a major player in the early Italian baroque, considered the father of the Neapolitan school of opera. As was the norm in that era, he was prolific with seven hundred cantatas, seventy operas, numerous oratorios, two sets of concertos and some chamber music. Only a small minority of these have been recorded.

The Sinfonias, or overtures as the disc title calls them, come from five operas from his two periods in Naples. In each piece, the structure is fast-slow-fast, in some instances with trumpets and oboes to add grandeur. They are all splendidly entertaining miniatures, even if the style doesn’t change much in the twenty-five years from the earliest (1689) to the latest (1714) presented here.

The six concertos were first published in London fifteen years after Scarlatti’s death, and there was some question mark over their authorship for a time. They are very fine Baroque concerti that can hold their own with the better known ones of Corelli. There are a few complete sets available; the one I have is from Europa Galante on Virgin Classics (now reissued on Erato). I adore this group in Vivaldi, but have been less impressed with their efforts with some other composers. Their Scarlatti concerti are, however, very good and provide a little more characterisation than Concerto de’ Cavalieri’s. That said, even if you do have these works, the excellent opera overtures are an incentive to purchase this new release.

This is the third recording by these performers of Scarlatti’s music, the previous two of sacred and secular vocal music on the CPO label, neither reviewed here. It is also their third release on the DHM label, the previous two of opera arias by Albinoni and Pergolesi, again not reviewed here. Their absence from our site until now is to be regretted because I am very impressed by their playing. It is a period instrument ensemble with twelve string players and two basso continuo, with oboes and trumpets as required for the overtures. However, for those not always enamoured with the over-vigorous playing of some period ensembles (and I include myself in that group), let me assure you that Concerto de’ Cavalieri is very smooth, not given to exaggerated tempos, and indeed I had to consult the excellent booklet notes to confirm that they were indeed playing period instruments. The sound quality is exceptionally good. My only grumble is the running time: surely some more overtures could have been added to the programme.

This is a fine production, and presents the orchestral works of Alessandro Scarlatti in a very good light.

David Barker



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