Scarlatti: Cantatas

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Scarlatti
LABELS: Analekta
ALBUM TITLE: Scarlatti Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas
PERFORMER: Matthew White, Les Voix Baroques
CATALOGUE NO: AN 29904
Canadian countertenor Matthew White and his compatriot musicians of the instrumental group Les Voix Baroques have here assembled a varied programme of pieces by Alessandro Scarlatti. Three chamber cantatas, a motet and two ensemble sonatas reveal the richly varied manner and often elusive idiom of this far from easily pigeonholed composer. The cantatas, all in a pastoral vein, were mostly written for an aristocratic audience and are highly sophisticated pieces, restrained in their often melancholy expression and largely devoid of showy and extravagant vocal gestures.

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White’s singing enlivens with sensibility Scarlatti’s many lyrical arias of which the concluding siciliano of the Cantata pastorale provides a pleasing example. But though his understanding both of text and music is sympathetic, I found myself longing for a greater variety of dynamic range and vocal colour than is generally on offer here. In these matters the tender motet Infirmata, vulnerata fares better, providing a more persuasive picture of what this singer is capable.

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The two sonatas – one featuring a recorder, the other an oboe, each with two violins and continuo – are late works and delightful ones. Les Voix Baroques brings them to life with lightly articulated phrasing and an assured stylistic sense. A mainly enjoyable release. Nicholas Anderson