Alessandro Scarlatti: Con eco d’amore

Performed by Elizabeth Watts and The English Concert conducted by Laurence Cummings.

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Alessandro Scarlatti: Con eco d’amore
WORKS: Arias from operas and cantatas
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Watts (soprano); The English Concert/Laurence Cummings
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 807574 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This remarkable recital of largely unfamiliar music by Alessandro Scarlatti, superbly programmed by Elizabeth Watts and Laurence Cummings, proves a fierce and sometimes wayward showcase for this rising soprano. Even as a student, Watts demonstrated great candour in her singing. As her career has progressed, she hasn’t lost the ability to get to the heart of an aria and peel back the layers. But there are points in this recital where a little less honesty and a little more art would have been welcome.

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There’s scintillating playing from The English Concert, including a dashing obbligato solo by violinist Huw Daniel in ‘Esci omai’ (from Mitridate Eupatore) matched in dynamism by the orchestra. Yet, arresting as the duel between Watts and trumpeter Mark Bennett is in ‘Se geloso è il mio core’ (Endimione e Cintia), there are as many smudges as there are wows – a pattern repeated at lower volume in ‘Sussurrando il venticello’ (Tigrane). Watts is extravagantly expressive even at her quietest (in ‘Ombre opache’ from Correa nel seno amato). There’s a sparkling carnivalesque miniature with trumpet and tambourine for noisy light relief; but her finest singing is in the eroticised lilt of ‘Mentre io godo in dolce oblio’ (La Santissima Vergine del Rosario) and over the tangy viola-rich textures of ‘A questo nuovo affanno’ (Eraclea). Anna Picard