COMPOSERS: Alessandro Scarlatti
WORKS: Humanità e Lucifero
PERFORMER: Rossana Bertini (soprano), Massimo Crispi (tenor); Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OPS 30-129 DDD
Thirty-five of Scarlatti’s oratorios are extant, a mere handful yet recorded. Biondi’s championing of them is very welcome, as this excellently recorded disc vividly demonstrates. His sterling research has uncovered date and place (1704, Rome) for the first performance of this mini-drama – the Virgin Mary, single-handedly and contrary to Christian doctrine, defeating the power of Lucifer and sentencing him ‘to eternal weeping and cries of pain’. Two Corelli trio sonatas serve as interludes within the oratorio.
Rossana Bertini celebrates the Virgin’s birthday with a lovely fresh voice. Lucifer, unusually tenor rather than bass, is a taxing role – Crispi flags momentarily, though he is agile and well cast.
The music is entrancingly dramatic and colourful, its style bringing to mind that of the young Handel, clearly infected by it when he reached Rome two years later: Lucifer’s first aria is unexpectedly interrupted by recitative; elsewhere, a delicate trumpet obbligato matches violin and voice with which it duets; ‘winds weep in pitiful murmurings’ with sopranino recorder. Lucifer sings his final aria accompanied by strikingly energetic unison strings, and Humanity ends the work with too great a surprise to give away in a review – you must buy the disc to discover it! George Pratt