A Scarlatti: Oratorio per la santissima trinità

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Oratorio per la santissima trinità
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens, Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), Vivica Genaux (contralto), Paul Agnew (tenor), Roberto Abbondanza (bass); Europa Galante/ Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: 5 45666 2
This is a real find – on the face of it simply an old-fashioned disputation, ‘Faithlessness’ setting up doctrinal conundrums for three sophists, ‘Faith’, ‘Divine Love’ and ‘Theology’, to resolve, aided by the unconfutable power of ‘Time’. The conventional recitative/aria formula is mainly of soloists, enriched by four duets and an astonishing ensemble finale of five distinctive characters (when ‘Faithlessness’ gets his come-uppance). The text readily invites musical simile and sentiment, while the performance generates an exhilarating pace with arias, many under two minutes, following recitatives without pause. Although Alessandro Scarlatti had a reputation for learned contrapuntal earnestness, the music here is endearingly tuneful. Every aria is distinctively inventive – teasingly evasive rhythms, capricious tempo-changes expressing mockery, a heatedly argumentative duet. The enchantments intensify in the second half: alternating voice and two violins depicting a dove’s flight, violin and cello exchanging bird-calls, a boat storm-tossed on waves of two solo cellos. The second duet’s haunting oscillation between major and minor is unforgettable. All voices are aptly fresh and direct, with Paul Agnew outstandingly responsive to every nuance in provocative recitative challenges to the nature of God and the Trinity. Some string ritornellos are untidy and balance is a touch bottom-heavy at first. Otherwise, a real delight. George Pratt