Scarlatti: Euridice dall'Inferno

Scarlatti: Euridice dall'Inferno

by Ars Lyrica Houston
     
 

Alessandro Scarlatti is most often remembered in modern times as Domenico's dad, but in his day he was hailed as the king of the chamber cantata. For the last part of that he had to contend with stiff competition from up and comers like George Frederick Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann, and still, nevertheless, held his ground during his ownSee more details below

Overview

Alessandro Scarlatti is most often remembered in modern times as Domenico's dad, but in his day he was hailed as the king of the chamber cantata. For the last part of that he had to contend with stiff competition from up and comers like George Frederick Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann, and still, nevertheless, held his ground during his own lifetime. This Naxos disc, Alessandro Scarlatti: Euridice dall'Inferno, combines a never-before recorded cantata of that name dating from 1699 with a short Latin oratorio, "La concettione della Beata Vergine" (1702), also new to recordings, combined with a couple of Scarlatti's instrumental compositions to provide variety. To have a vocal work of Alessandro Scarlatti wholly new to disc is not in itself unusual; he wrote hundreds of them, and not very many have been recorded, at least compared to how the situation is for Telemann and Handel in that category. However, "Euridice dall'Inferno" is an exceptionally fine example of his work in the genre, and well performed here by the Houston-based period instrument ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston, newcomers themselves to recordings. Soprano Melissa Givens does an exceptionally fine job in "Euridice dall'Inferno," putting across a strong sense of drama while maintaining vocal purity and never going over the top with it; a little reminiscent at times of a young Emma Kirkby. The opening aria gets one's attention, partly as it has a progression very similar to that of "Dido's Lament" in Henry Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas," written just a decade before. While one cannot altogether discount the possibility that Scarlatti may have heard this very, very famous piece, it is probably a coincidence, though poor Eurydice is, after all, in hell, so such a musical idea is certainly not inappropriate. This oratorio "La concettione della Beata Vergine" (Oratorio of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin) is pocket-sized, lasting only a little over 30 minutes, with no chorus, only four soloists, and realized here with a band of just six players. It is tuneful, attractive, and rather amusing in its highly secularized storyline: the Virgin Mary is about to be born, but the big dragon (or serpent) Heresy is already making plans to blot her out even before she is brought into the world. The Archangel Michael intervenes, with the assistance of numerous pagan gods -- presumably without realizing that Christianity will result in their own downfall -- and Mary is conceived in the immaculate conception long claimed for her. In this piece, bass Timothy Jones digs into the role of Heresy with relish and provides this work with its most bracing moments, but not all of the singing is so distinguished, and throughout the disc the hall used for the recording -- Zilkha Hall in Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts -- seems big and cavernous for such a small group. The instrumental pieces, though, are a nice bonus; the harpsichord Toccata demonstrates that some of what we know of the son originated with the father, with its thin, constantly overlapping textures and use of odd harmonic devices. The "Cello Sonata in C minor" is involving and well played by Barrett Sills. If one happens to be hooked on Baroque solo cantatas and chamber vocal works, this might fall short of fulfilling the requirement simply owing to its lack of intimacy; the reverberation is simply overkill. However, these are interesting pieces and the singing is generally good, and if one is already well-disposed to Scarlatti pére, then this should be an exciting entry, particularly due to the oratorio.

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/31/2009
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313095070
catalogNumber:
8570950
Rank:
341000

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Del lagrimoso lido, chamber cantata for soprano & continuo ("Euridice dall'Inferno")  - Alessandro Scarlatti  - Ars Lyrica Houston  - Rosalind Halton
  2. Sonata for cello & continuo in C minor (doubtful)  - Alessandro Scarlatti  - Barrett Sills  - Ars Lyrica Houston
  3. Work(s): Toccata in A major: 1. [Allegro]  - Alessandro Scarlatti  - Matthew Dirst
  4. Work(s): Toccata in A major: 2. Giga  - Alessandro Scarlatti  - Matthew Dirst
  5. La concettione della beata vergine, oratorio for soloists, strings & continuo  - Alessandro Scarlatti  - Richard Armstrong  - Timothy Jones  - Joseph Gaines  - Melissa Givens  - Ars Lyrica Houston  - Rosalind Halton  - Gerrod Pagenkopf

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