As Gramophone noted of a recent Brilliant Classics issue, ‘Estévan Velardi and the Alessandro Scarlatti Consort have notched up an impressively broad discography of unjustly neglected Italian Baroque masters.’ This release presents a reissue of a recording made in 1995, the premiere on disc for Giuditta. This is a two-act oratorio composed by Alessandro Scarlatti, who has been the particular focus of Velardi’s work on record, encompassing other treasurable discoveries issued on Brilliant Classics such as the Oratorio per La Santissima Trinità (BC95535), Il dolore di Maria Vergine (BC95534) and San Filippo Neri (BC94037), which was welcomed by Gramophone for‘Velardi’s admirable zeal, worthy endeavour, natural pacing and the shapely string playing of his band.’
Giuditta is based on the Biblical story of Judith, a beautiful Israelite widow who insinuates herself within the camp of the conquering Assyrian tribe and deceives their general, Holofernes, before decapitating him and carrying off his head in triumph. This is the second version of the oratorio, known as the Cambridge version after the location of the manuscript when it was turned up in modern times. Scarlatti had considered the original version, composed for Rome in 1693, to be his finest oratorio. This is no mean assessment from the composer of masterworks which have been more celebrated in our own time such as La Maddalena, for their expressive pathos and superbly grateful vocal lines. At any rate, Scarlatti conducted a revision of Giuditta four years later, scaling down the forces of the original to three solo voices, strings and continuo: it is this version, incisive and dramatic, which is performed by the Alessandro Stradella Consort.
“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.
Scarlatti’s oratorios may be considered as “Spiritual Operas”, and they reflect the 17-the century tendency of abandoning the strict contrapuntal writing in favour of accompanied monodies, in fact a sequence of recitativo and arias.
La Giuditta is based on the biblical story of Judith, and Scarlatti proves himself the master of highly dramatic writing, full of word painting, and expression of the deeply human emotions as featured in the savage story of Judith and Holofernes.
Performed by one of the leading protagonists of the revival of Alessandro Scarlatti: Estévan Velardi, conductor and scholar, and his instrumental ensemble Alessandro Stradella Consort, playing period instruments.
Extensive liner notes are included in the booklet, as well as the original sung texts.