Alessandro Scarlatti is justly famed for his contributions to Read more opera seria and cantata, and indeed it may even be said that he was one of the main progenitors of the Neapolitan style of the early 18th century. In Naples and earlier in Rome he was obligated to write a considerable amount of sacred music, much of it for smaller settings that would be useful in the local churches. Since his music is now becoming more common on disc, it is good to have this recording of a set of four pieces—a gradual, a Marian antiphon, a motet, and a Psalm—all of which reflect rather different approaches to each portion of the liturgy and yet contain a certain commonality in form and structure. Interspersed within these, and no doubt both to provide a transition between then and to fill out the disc, are three organ works, two of which are of substantial length. Given that Scarlatti’s pieces for this instrument are not common, their appearance here is a real treat.
Gérard Lesne founded the Il Seminario musicale Ensemble in 1985. Since 1990, the Ensemble has been in residence at the Royaumont Foundation, where it attracts vocalists and instrumentalists who share Lesne's enthusiam for the 17th and 18th century Italian repertoire. The musicians perform on old instruments and strive to reproduce as faithfully as possible the lilt and narrative line characteristic of the baroque style as expressed in works by composers such as Monteverdi, Cavalli, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Caldara, Pergolesi, and the others. The size of the ensemble is variable depending on the repertoire. Based on a rich and varied continuo section (theorbo, cello, basson, double bass, organ and harpsichord) supporting one or more soloists, it can be expanded with the addition of a string quartet to make a small chamber orchestra suitable for performing chamber operas. Responsibility for the Ensemble's musical direction is shared by the instrumentalists and vocalists.
This superb disc of music by one of Spain's most talented early 16th century composers is exactly the sort of boost that the less well-known repertoire needs in its search for a place in today's CD collection. It is in every way a model of what a recording of Renaissance polyphony ought to be… The all male vocal ensemble sings with enormous conviction as well as firm control of rhythm and phrasing. Combining the voices with energetically played sackbuts produces a rich and dark-hued sound that feels authentically Spanish, and does full justice to this very fine music.
“During this visit, these young ladies were so obliging as to sing me a Salve regina, lately set by their father, in duo. It is an exquisite composition, full of grace, taste and propriety.” What more could one ask of an antiphon than that which Charles Burney found in an impromptu performance by Hasse’s daughters during a visit to their father in Vienna in 1772? Hasse composed several settings of the Salve regina of which Reinhard Goebel has chosen two for his interesting programme of vocal and instrumental pieces by the composer.
Certainly the somber beauty of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and strings has a lot to do with its popularity. But it must be said that the story of the 26-year-old composer completing the work on his deathbed has always been too romantic for the public–or the music business–to resist. "The instant his death was known," wrote the famous 18th-century traveler Dr. Burney, "all Italy manifested an eager desire to hear and possess his productions." And so it's been ever since. In spite of the competition already on the market, it seems Decca just had to get its prize lyric soprano and hotshot young countertenor together to record the piece. –Matthew Westphal
Had Pergolesi not died young, his name would rank among the most stellar and influential of Italy’s 18th-century composers. Despite the brevity of his life – he died at 26 – Pergolesi created numerous deathless works
In this second album of Claudio Abbado’s Pergolesi Project, the renowned maestro conducts the Missa S. Emidio, Manca la guida al pie, Laudate pueri Dominum, and the Salve Regina in F minor. Abbado’s passion for this music meets these sacred compositions on the exalted level where they were composed… (The Times)
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi had a tragically short career, living just 26 years, and producing most of his mature works over a period of about five years. This album includes three of the composer's most representative pieces. The most familiar is the 40-minute Stabat mater for soprano, alto, and orchestra, which was the most frequently published composition of the 18th century. This version, featuring soprano Rachel Harnisch and contralto Sara Mingardo, makes a splendid introduction to the work and should be of interest to anyone who loves this poignant music. …
by Stephen Eddins