Domenico Scarlatti: Cantatas: O qual meco Nice; Pur nel sonno almen tal’ora; Che vidi, oh ciel, che vidi

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Domenico Scarlatti
LABELS: Auvidis Astrée
WORKS: Cantatas: O qual meco Nice; Pur nel sonno almen tal’ora; Che vidi, oh ciel, che vidi
PERFORMER: Cyrille Gerstenhaber (soprano); XVIII-21, Musique des Lumières/Jean-Christophe Frisch
CATALOGUE NO: E 8673
Domenico Scarlatti’s fame rests entirely on his keyboard sonatas, and his cantatas are barely known at all to modern audiences. These three works are all premiere recordings, and the ensemble performing them here is likely to be new to many readers, too. The group has much to offer, and those weary of the usual suspects in Baroque musical performance may well be invigorated by its colourful sound and forthright, expressive approach. But the star of the disc is soprano Cyrille Gerstenhaber, whose singing is by turns thrillingly dramatic and sleepily sensuous. The use of a reconstructed Cristofori fortepiano – the type of instrument Scarlatti would have known in Spain – adds a strident, percussive quality to the vocal accompaniment.

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I would have unhesitatingly recommended this disc had it not been flawed by a sentimentalised reading of the opening aria of ‘Pur nel sonno’, which made it sound for all the world like music to a British Airways advert; and by the overlay of a twittering bird at the end of ‘Che vidi, oh ciel’. The latter effect was presumably intended to symbolise spring and rebirth, but the result sounds like a mechanical canary on speed. Kate Bolton