A Scarlatti: Stabat mater in A minor; Salve regina; Quae est ista

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COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Stabat mater in A minor; Salve regina; Quae est ista
PERFORMER: Gérard Lesne (alto), Sandrine Piau (soprano), Jean-François Novelli (tenor); Il Seminario Musicale
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45366 2
Alessandro Scarlatti’s Stabat mater in A minor, one of at least five he is known to have composed, may be smaller in scale than his son Domenico’s better-known setting, but it is no less significant. Written for just two voices (compared with Domenico’s ten), two violins, continuo (harpsichord and cello on this recording), it has a depth, a volume and a majesty far beyond what you would expect from such modest forces.

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It is an exquisitely structured work, the two voices, alto and soprano, spiralling round each other in a sort of aural double helix. But this beautifully shaped performance from the French early music ensemble Il Seminario Musicale, soprano Sandrine Piau and countertenor Gérard Lesne has an emotional as well as cerebral appeal. Both singers have voices of exceptional purity and focus, and convey with heartbreaking poignancy the anguish and desolation in the text, a medieval devotional poem about the Virgin as she stands tormented at the feet of her crucified son.

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The rest of the disc dispels the prevailing mood of sadness with an ardent Salve regina and the motet Quae est ista, with its jubilant dance-like rhythms, theorbo part and lyrical vocal lines.