An 18th-century oratorio full of pacy, engaging arias, in a critically praised period-instrument recording from 2001.
The conductor Esteban Velardi has worked as diligently as anyone to revive the music of the ‘other’ Scarlatti, Alessandro (father of Domenico), who is widely considered a founder of the Neapolitan school of music that, in the late 18th century, captivated audiences across Europe with a rhythmically vital and theatrical approach to even the most time-honoured or abstract subjects – such as the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which became the subject for one of the composer’s final works.
Enriched by a lifetime’s mastery of theatrical timing and virtuosic vocal writing, the oratorio ‘stages’ a conflict of belief between the character of Faithlessness and the professions of Faith, Divine Love, Time and Theology. If that sounds like an unprepossessing basis for an hour and a half of music, Scarlatti and Velardi between them never let the narrative sag, not least through the vivid and varied use of an instrumental ensemble with notable obbligato solos for a violin, imitating birdsong, and a cello for a river.
At the time this recording was welcomed for its ‘musical intelligence’ (Gramophone), and Velardi’s subsequent recordings of Scarlatti oratorios on Brilliant Classics have attracted admiration from the same quarters: the conductor and his hand-picked ensemble ‘have notched up an impressively broad discography of neglected Italian Baroque masters.’ San Filippo Neri (94037) is marked by ‘Velardi’s admirable zeal, natural pacing, and the shapely string playing of his band… The Alessandro Stradella Consort deserves credit for going where no Baroque group has gone before.’ The booklet contains not only a history of the work but also a movement-by-movement guide to the relationship of music and text. Sung texts are available at www.brilliantclassics.com.
“Alessandro Scarlatti is a great man but his compositions are very difficult, in a theatre audience of a thousand people only 20 will understand them”, thus said Count Francesco Zambeccari, an influential contemporary, and it is a testimony of the skill, complexity and depth of his rich music, a far cry from the facile and fashionable composers of his day. The Oratorio per la Santissima Trinita was composed in 1715, written at the mature age of 50, specifically intended for performance in Naples. The music is at the service of the “drama”, in a musical action that flows almost without caesura, presenting the richness of Scarlatti’s invention, always backed up by extremely in-depth knowledge of all the best composition techniques of the long tradition of the Italian School.
The manuscript of this substantial oratorio was recently found at an antique market in Italy, and was first edited and performed by the present conductor/scholar Estvan Velardi.The booklet contains extensive liner notes by a musicologist, as well as a detailed description of the music.