ALBUM TITLE: Scarlatti 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.
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.
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