A Scarlatti: Concerti Grossi Nos 1-6

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COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti
LABELS: Arts
WORKS: Concerti Grossi Nos 1-6; Sonatas for cello and continuo
PERFORMER: Mauro Valli (cello); Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
CATALOGUE NO: Arts 47758-8 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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These ‘Concertos in Seven Parts’ were published in London in about 1740, some 15 years after Alessandro Scarlatti’s death. Charles Burney thought them severe, though he liked their fugal content. The ‘seven parts’ of the title do not refer to real parts, of which there are only four, but are an approximate indication of the number of instruments required in performance.

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These well-contrasted concertos are not at all severe but might be better understood as mainly serious in manner and, compared with Handel’s concerti grossi, for instance, archaic. Like Handel and Corelli, the concertino group consists of two violins and a cello which interact with the ripieno. Scarlatti, though, makes less of the alternating textures than either Corelli or Handel, except in the Third and Sixth Concertos. These are by far the most genial pieces of the set and, with the several instances of supple fugal writing, provide its chief attraction. Accademia Bizantina offers lively, crisply articulated performances with fugal movements benefiting from lucid textures. Dance movements, too, come off well with pleasing rhythmic definition. The conclusion of the Sixth Concerto in E major is reason enough to buy the set. Three interesting Cello Sonatas, eloquently played by Mauro Valli, complete the programme. Nicholas Anderson