There are some real injustices in the business of recorded music and this disc brings one of them very much to light. The opening lines of the liner notes say, "Until relatively recently, the reputation of Alessandro Scarlatti – the son, brother, father and uncle of other illustrious musicians – was overshadowed by that of his son Domenico." It is not stated on this disc whether the notes were written to go with this Apex re-issue or whether they date from the same period as the recording, but Alessandro’s reputation, if he has one, is still very much under his wonderful son’s shadow. It is an indication of a massive injustice, that this re-issue goes some small way to correcting.
These works both received their first performances in Leipzig - the Magnificat in 1723 and Cantata 82 in 1727. It was in 1723 that Bach had taken up thepost of Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, having previously been Kapellmeisterto Prince Leopold in Cothen. The Magnificat was originally heard ina version in E flat major at Christmas Vespers when movements with seasonaltexts were inserted; the version included on this disc was rendered by Bach someyears later, returning to the ordinary Magnificat text in order to makethe work performable all year round. Bach's approach to the evening canticle ischaracteristically large-scale. There is no use of recitative, owing perhaps tothe poetic nature of the text: the verses have little natural hierarchy and itis appropriate that they should all be afforded extended settings. The scoringis unusually rich and includes three trumpets, two flutes, two oboes, strings,continuo, and timpani - one of the largest ensembles to be assembled at theThomaskirche in Bach's time. Bach takes a literal view of the text in which, forinstance, the full five-part choir is used to demonstrate Omnes generationes ("All generations") with soloists used for the more reflective movements. Ina typically Bachian gesture the opening material returns for Sicut erat inprincipio ("As it was in the beginning").
Originating in 1969 with a short melodic fragment that grew into an elaborate piece that runs well over an hour, Karlheinz Stockhausen's Mantra for two pianos and electronics is recognized as one of his major keyboard works and an example of his increasingly liberal use of serial methods. The central idea operates on many levels throughout the composition, and the organization of Stockhausen's 13-pitch series a twelve-tone row with the first note repeated at the end takes place on small and large scales, with some permutations of the motive or "mantra" extending over so much time that their relationships become imperceptible.