D Scarlatti: Stabat mater; Missa quatuor vocum

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COMPOSERS: D Scarlatti
LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: Stabat mater; Missa quatuor vocum
PERFORMER: Elena Cecchi Fedi (soprano), Alessandro Carmignani (countertenor), Paolo Fanciullacci (tenor), Roberto Abbondanza (bass), etc; Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30248
It is uncertain whether Domenico Scarlatti’s sublime setting of the Stabat mater was composed in Rome for the choir of the Capella Giulia at St Peter’s between 1714 and 1719, or after he was subsequently appointed maestro di capella of the Portuguese Royal Chapel. It is difficult to date on stylistic grounds owing to its old-fashioned polyphonic style, and the autograph manuscript is lost. There is nothing wrong with the conventionally sumptuous frame adopted for this glorious music, best exemplified by The Sixteen’s recently reissued recording on Coro, but the intimate approach taken by Alessandrini and the ten singers of Concerto Italiano brings a naturally Latinate shade and an innate sense of ensemble to this repertoire.

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This Stabat mater has the flexibility of a sentimentally taut madrigal. Reflective sections such as ‘Cujus animam gementem’ wonderfully evoke the mourning of Mary at the foot of the cross, although in animated sections such as ‘Inflammatus’ Alessandrini allows the fugal entries to veer on the wrong side of stridency. Listeners wanting a stylish choral interpretation of the Stabat mater containing quintessentially ‘sacred’ characteristics such as devotion and piety may be disappointed by Alessandrini, although, paradoxically, he excels at capturing these qualities in an engaging and lovely Mass setting which possibly dates from the last few years of Scarlatti’s life. Yet the precision and drama of Concerto Italiano’s spirited readings ensure that this disc is a typically stimulating and vibrant alternative perspective. David Vickers